What Medication Is Used to Put a Dog to Sleep for Surgery?

Written by bethney foster
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What Medication Is Used to Put a Dog to Sleep for Surgery?

If your pet is scheduled for a procedure---from a simple dental cleansing or spay/neuter to surgical removal of a tumour or the repairing of a broken limb--most likely he will have to be anaesthetised.

The good news is that modern anaesthesia medications are much safer and much easier to use than those once employed in veterinary practices. Despite this, anaesthesia usually carries a greater risk than the procedure itself. According to Dr. Mike Richards, writing at VetInfo, a recent study in Canada found the risk of anesthetic death in dogs to be about one in 900.

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In many instances your veterinarian will do some work prior to anaesthetising your dog. The first step may involve testing to ensure your pet is healthy enough for anaesthesia and the procedure. The doctor will likely want to do blood work to check your dog's kidneys, liver and other organs. The blood test will also tell the veterinarian about your pet's blood-cell count and cholesterol and indicate potential heart problems.


In many practices, the veterinarian may give your dog a pre-anesthetic sedative, such as Valium, to help her relax before surgery. A dog that is excited or nervous may require more of the anesthetic medication, putting it at greater risk of complications with anaesthesia.

Local Anesthetic

Depending upon what type of procedure your pet is having, the doctor may use only a local anaesthesia. Lidocaine, marcaine and carbocaine are common medications used as local anesthetics. These medications block nerves in a particular area of the pet's body so that it doesn't feel pain. These anesthetics are generally safer than other types. However, the veterinarian will likely need to administer a separate tranquilliser to keep the pet unconscious during the procedure.

General Anesthetic

These anesthetics are used for most surgeries and are delivered via a gas, usually with the pet masked during the procedure. They produce a deep sleep-like state and eliminate any sensation of pain. Common medications used as general anesthetics include sevoflurane, isoflurane and halothane.


Xylazine is a sedative that provides pain control through its impact on the central nervous system. It is a muscle relaxer that inhibits transmission of impulses between the nerve cells and the brain. A benefit of this medication is that the drug yohimbine reverses its effects almost immediately.

Medetomidine hydrochloride

Medetomidine hydrochloride is an injectable sedative with pain-relief qualities. This medication is most often used as an anaesthesia for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and is sometimes used for minor surgical procedures and dental care.

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