Why Your Pet Should Not Eat Before Surgery

Yorkshire Terrier showing dislike towards her dog food.

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Having your pet undergo an anesthetic procedure such as surgery or a dental cleaning can be a bit worrisome for a pet parent.  As a veterinarian, it is my job to make sure that your pet is completely safe and comfortable before and after any anesthetic procedure.  Some ways I ensure this is through performing pre-anesthetic bloodwork, continual monitoring of vitals during the procedure, using human-grade anesthesia, keeping them warm, and pain-free.  Another way that I ensure their well-being is by requiring pet parents to not give their pet any food past midnight prior to any anesthetic procedure, which definitely means no breakfast no matter how much they may whine and beg.  

Feeding your pet the morning of the procedure seriously risks the life of your pet.  Like people undergoing an anesthetic procedure, pets need to have fasted. Many of the anesthetic drugs may cause vomiting before and after the anesthetic procedure, which can lead to what is known as aspiration pneumonia.  How does this happen? Anesthetic drugs decrease the swallowing reflex by relaxing the larynx. If your pet vomits, the relaxed larynx will not be able to do its job and prevent the vomit from getting into the lungs. When something foreign enters the lungs it is called aspiration.  Aspiration pneumonia is a condition in which a pet’s lungs become inflamed due to the inhalation of foreign matter, from vomiting, or from the regurgitation of stomach acid.

I cannot stress enough the importance of fasting prior to any anesthetic procedure but as we are all human mistakes sometimes happen.  If you accidentally feed your pet breakfast, please just let your veterinarian know, he or she will understand. Better to delay and be safe than sorry.  Besides, all elected anesthetic procedures can always be rescheduled.

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