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What are Anesthesia Allergies?

Surgery and other necessary veterinary procedures often require anesthesia. Derived from the Greek word for “lack of sensation,” anesthesia refers to drug administration that reduces pain and feeling in all or part of the body. With procedures that require general anesthesia, the veterinarian will give your dog drugs that depress the nervous system enough to induce complete lack of consciousness. Other local anesthesia techniques may be used to numb a specific area of the body for a minor operation. Both types of anesthesia reduce your dog’s pain and allow the veterinarian to perform invasive procedures that require a high level of precision. General anesthesia is used more commonly in dogs and other small animals.

The majority of procedures that require anesthesia are accomplished with no incident, however, the rate of anesthesia death in pets is higher than humans, with one study suggesting approximately 1 in 400 animals (0.25 %) experience some type of fatal complication. As with any drug, there is a risk of adverse reaction to the drug itself, but most anesthesia deaths are not related to allergies. It’s estimated that only 1 in 100,000 pets has an allergic response to anesthesia medications. The most common symptom is mild swelling at the injection site, but more serious reactions like decreased cardiac function and even anaphylactic shock are possible. An anaphylactic reaction is a severe life-threatening allergic response which can cause respiratory and circulatory failure. Anesthesia drugs are not commonly a trigger for anaphylaxis, but it’s possible with sensitive individuals.

Anesthesia can allow veterinarians to perform surgeries and procedures that are vital for your dog’s health. Complications are rare, but some dogs can experience an allergic reaction to the drugs used to induce anesthesia. Responses range from mild irritation at the injection site to rare but serious anaphylactic shock.

Anesthesia Allergies Average Cost

From 465 quotes ranging from $452 - $1,030

Average Cost

$1,570

Symptoms of Anesthesia Allergies in Dogs

These are the symptoms the veterinarian and surgery assistant will be looking for as your dog undergoes anesthesia.

  • Redness at the injection site
  • Swelling at the injection site
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Drop in pulse rate
  • Cardiac or respiratory arrest
  • Anaphylactic shock which is rare (excessive swelling, difficulty breathing, death)

Types

Veterinarians choose from numerous drug combinations used to induce anesthesia. An approach called ‘balanced anesthesia’ is most common for general anesthesia. The patient will receive a pre-anesthetic sedative via injection, followed by another injection containing the induction agent. A mixture of gas and oxygen will be administered through a tube in the windpipe to maintain anesthesia during surgery. A local anesthetic procedure would likely just include a single injection. Concerned owners should discuss what types of drugs will be used on their dog with the veterinarian, especially if the dog has previously had a medication reaction.

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Causes of Anesthesia Allergies in Dogs

It’s not known what causes some animals to be allergic to certain drugs, however, other factors could contribute to anesthesia complications and make an allergic reaction more likely to be fatal.

  • Improper dosing
  • Improper monitoring
  • Prior medical conditions
  • Older dogs are more prone to complications
  • Some breed are predisposed the have problems under anesthesia
  • Brachycephalic – breeds with flattened faces, like Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers, and Boston Terriers, generally have smaller airways; this can slightly increase the chance of airway obstruction and respiratory problems during anesthesia
  • Sighthounds – hunting breeds, like Greyhounds, metabolize drugs differently than other breeds and may take longer to recover from anesthesia; low body fat also increases the risk of hypothermia under anesthesia
  • Herding breeds – some Collie breeds, Australian Shepherds, and Shelties can have a gene mutation that increases the tendency for drugs to accumulate in the brain
  • Toy breeds – anesthesia risk generally increases in smaller animals, doses should be calculated carefully, since a small error will have a more drastic effect; hypothermia and hypoglycemia can also be a bigger problem with small animals
  • Giant breeds – many giant breeds are actually prone to anesthesia overdose since they metabolize and respond to drugs faster than other animals; anesthesia doses should be calculated based on lean body mass, rather than actual weight
  • Doberman Pinscher – a genetic abnormality called von Willebrand disease can mean Doberman Pinschers have problems with blood clotting as well as a tendency to dilated cardiomyopathy; it’s a good idea to ask the veterinarian to check for these conditions before your dog undergoes anesthesia
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Diagnosis of Anesthesia Allergies in Dogs

A pre-surgery exam with blood tests will help to identify conditions that might cause a reaction under anesthesia, like organ disease, diabetes, dehydration, or infectious diseases. It’s important to catch these problems since they could cause complications, however, there is no way for the veterinarian to diagnose an actual allergy without giving the drugs to your dog. The veterinarian and surgery assistant will check for symptoms during and after anesthesia administration and continue to monitor your dog throughout the surgery process. 

If your dog shows symptoms of an allergic reaction under anesthesia, he will then be diagnosed with an allergy. You should get a list of the drugs that were used from the veterinarian so that they can be avoided in the future. Any new veterinarian should be informed of previous allergy diagnoses, whether they were to anesthesia drugs, other medications, or a vaccine. Chronic conditions, like diabetes or heart problems should also be mentioned in case they are not caught in the pre-operation check-up. These conditions can increase the chances of an allergic reaction being fatal.

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Treatment of Anesthesia Allergies in Dogs

If your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction under anesthesia, the veterinarian will administer appropriate drugs intravenously. Benadryl or another antihistamine could be given for mild reactions. Corticosteroids can also help to reduce swelling and inflammation, and keep airways open. Epinephrine could be needed for severe anaphylactic reactions. Additional fluids, and emergency treatments to support heart function may be given in life-threatening situations.

Unlike human treatments, most pet surgeries don’t automatically have an anesthesiologist in the room to monitor the patient. For an extra charge, you can usually request this service from the veterinarian. This can help to catch problems due to an allergy or another complication before the situation escalates into an emergency. Other security measures include connecting an IV catheter during the surgery. This will help to replace lost fluids, and ensure that the veterinarian can administer appropriate drugs quickly and easily in the advent of an allergic reaction or another complication. If this is not a general part of your veterinarian’s practice, it can usually be requested, also at an extra cost.

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Recovery of Anesthesia Allergies in Dogs

The rate of allergic reaction to anesthesia drugs is low, but it does happen and in some cases it can be fatal. Taking proper precautions will reduce the risk of complications with anesthesia. All dogs should be properly fasted since anesthesia drugs can cause them to vomit whatever food is left in the stomach. Swallowing reflexes are less functional under anesthesia and aspiration can be a problem. Oxygen is typically administered through a tube in the windpipe to further reduce the risk of aspiration. Other measures you can take include ensuring your dog is in good health and not dehydrated before he goes in for surgery. Most procedures that require anesthesia are completed without incident and the veterinarian will not order anesthesia unless the benefits gained are worth the risk.

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Anesthesia Allergies Average Cost

From 465 quotes ranging from $452 - $1,030

Average Cost

$1,570

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Anesthesia Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Red Eyes

My dog had pyometra surgery friday morning and she still drosey and wont eat her eys are red and droppy where you cant see her eyeball

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. Some dogs do take a few days to recover from major surgery. If she is not improving after 2 days, it would be best to call your vet. They can give you advice on what to do next. She may need to stay a few days at the hospital on fluids to help her feel much better.

July 12, 2020

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jessie

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Bull Terrier

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Anaesthetics

had my dog spayed 8 years ago took her home and she wouldnt eat drink and she just kept vomiting bile 2 days later we rushed her back to vets and she was put on drips etc for a whole week but she recovered the vet said her allegy affected her liver or kidneys and they shut down he cleaned her system out and she was fine. now she needs her teeth sorting and the vet wont do it.another vet at the same practice a young man said they have improved anaesthesia and its not a problem.but i am worried i dont think he read all her history about her opperation.need help vet said she was in pain with her teeth.she is still eating and chewing hide bones?

Aug. 29, 2018

jessie's Owner

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Timmy

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Chihuahua

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Mouth And Eyes Swelling

Hi, my dog just had some dental work done. While doing the surgery they noticed he started swelling. They stopped the surgery because his eyes swelled shut. They say they don't know if it was the gloves or the anesthesia. Is there a skin prick or a safe to do a test to see which one it was. I mean what if my dog has an emergency? I would like to know before any more surgeries if needed or an emergency.

July 5, 2018

Timmy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There isn’t a specific test which may be done to show which one caused the reaction; however if there is an emergency or another procedure is needed your Veterinarian may use a different anaesthetic combination (we have many to choose from) and may use latex free gloves for examination and surgery. This should be noted in his medical records and remained them each visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 6, 2018

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Emma

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Blue heeler mix

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling Face

My 1 year old blue heeler mix got spayed on Friday. Tuesday morning, we woke up to find her face swollen. We have been giving her Benedryl and that has made the swelling go away. Well today (Thursday), she has swelling in her ear flaps. There is no obvious signs of a hematoma, plus it’s both ears. Could these be side effects from anesthesia?

May 10, 2018

Emma's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Given the time that has past since the surgery, I don’t believe that the cause for the swelling is due to the anaesthesia since too much time has passed; swelling may occur for various reasons which may include other allergies among other causes. Continue with the Benadryl if there is still swelling and return to your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 11, 2018

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Chloe

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Whippet mix

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Whining

My dog was walking very stiff and not acting like herself so we brought her into the vet and they did x-rays. They think she has Intervertebral disc disease so she has been put on meds and bed rest. But it’s been almost 12 hours and her back legs aren’t working at all and she’s whining, I’ve tried helping her up but she can’t keep her legs under her. Is this a normal reaction to anesthesia?

April 13, 2018

Chloe's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This isn’t a normal reaction to anaesthesia, but in patients which are suffering from hind leg weakness, general anaesthesia may cause further weakness. You should follow the instructions of your Veterinarian and give Chloe plenty of rest and monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 13, 2018

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Harvey

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Pug

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10 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Abdomen
Drooling
Dry Heaving
Whining

Yesterday my dog had 4 teeth extracted and a teeth cleaning. When I picked him up his body seemed super swollen. The vet office didn’t seem concerned. He’s been super whiny and he won’t eat.

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bailey

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Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Death

hello very upset our girl died Tuesday getting planned c section . she was healthy 2 /12 show pom . been showing for years first time ever c section or anesthesia related death on 39 years of animals . devastated the vet claims nothing other than she went blue with premed sedation they couldn't revive . she then had her puppies removed their alive were round clock care. very concerned she was overdosed but contacted patholigists they told me very hard to autopsy this . thank you ksilver36@aol.com

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Apple

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Lhasa Apso

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

"Blood In Vomit"
"Blood In Stool"

Our dog apple,4 years old was operated for ear hematoma under general anesthesia. We took him home, he vomited after drinking some water. He was weak, but was able to walk around. After 5 hours, he started whining loudly in pain, at intervals and shaking his legs. When we called the vet, he said its the pain from the stitches. After 2 hours we called him again to give some pain killer, as it was in lot of pain.As suggested by him we administered tramadol 50mg. One hour later, he puked water, with traces of dark blood and also its stool had dark coloured blood.All the while,it was whining in pain.We immediately took him to the vet. The vet gave him iv and stabilized him with some vaccines. We got him home, as the vet couldnt admit him in the clinic. It was whining the whole night. Later in the morning it puked red blood and had some convulsions and finally lost its life. Why did our healthy dog die so suddenl. Is it a bad reaction to anesthesia?

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Bex

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Shih Tzu

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6 Months

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms

My sons Shih Tzu was six months old and went to get neutered. He passed away within minutes of them administrating the anesthesia. We are all devastated and can't help wondering if this was vet error. They tried to revive him for 15 minutes with no success.

Anesthesia Allergies Average Cost

From 465 quotes ranging from $452 - $1,030

Average Cost

$1,570

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