often do dogs and cats die during anesthesia?
for veterinary medicine are difficult to compile. There are no systematic
methods for reporting anesthetic complications and objective independent
assessment of the clinical course of events leading to anesthetic morbidity
and mortality are virtually non-existent. Several retrospective studies
have been performed over the last 50 years documenting the anesthetic
death rate in dogs and cats. In 1955, one study reported that at a single
institution the death rate was 1.1% in dogs and 1.8% in cats.(1) The
same institution was reevaluated in 1979 and the death rate decreased
to 0.43% in dogs and 0.25% in cats. In a similar study of 10,000 feline
anesthetics, the death rate was similar (0.3%).(2)
study in the United Kingdom reported mortality rates in dogs and cats
of 0.23% and 0.29% respectively.(3) This study stratified patients based
on the presence of preexisting disease. When analysis was complete the
death rate was 3.12% for dogs with preexisting disease and 0.11% for
healthy dogs. Cats also had increased risk with disease (3.33%) and
decreased risk when healthy. Subsequent studies have provided similar
results.(4-6) These studies suggest that as the patient population ages,
and more animals with concurrent diseases are anesthetized, anesthetic
care must improve in order to reduce or even maintain current mortality
is imperative to recognize that death, while easy to define, is a catastrophic
outcome. Many other risks of anesthesia such as respiratory depression,
low blood pressure, and adverse drug reactions may not cause death,
but can seriously complicate patient recovery and long term health.
1. Lumb W, Jones E. Veterinary Anaesthesia, 2nd Edn Philadelphia: Lea
and Febiger 1973; 611-29.
2. Dodman N. Feline anesthetic survey. J Small Animal Practice 1977;
3. Clarke K, Hall L. A survey of anaesthesia in small animal practice.
AVA/BSAVA report. J Ass Vet Anaesth 1990; 17: 4-10.
4. Dodman N, Lamb L. Survey of small animal anesthetic practice in Vermont.
J Anim Hosp Ass 1992; 28: 439-45.
5. Gaynor J, Dunlop C, Wagner A, Wertz E, Golden A. Complications and
mortality associated with anesthesia in dogs and cats. J Anim Hosp Ass
1994; 35: 13-7.
6. Dyson D, Maxi M. Morbidity and mortality associated with anesthetic
management in small animal veterinary practice in Ontario. J Anim Hosp
Ass 1998; 35: 325-35.
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