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4 min read

What is a Veterinary Anesthesiologist?


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Updated: 9/21/2021

The veterinary specialty classified under the term “anesthesia” concerns veterinarians that must ensure animals don’t suffer any pain during associated veterinary procedures. Founded in 1975, the specialization is part of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA) organization, and its mission is to promote the development of veterinary anesthesiology as well as support the veterinary profession in offering outstanding services to animals of all kinds.

The ACVAA includes 220 members who are specialists in veterinary anesthesia, and the goal of the organization is to evaluate, maintain, and establish high-end standards in practicing veterinary anesthesiology as well as promote research, clinical and educational training in veterinary anesthesiology. In addition, the job of the organization is to establish a hierarchy and only select the best veterinarians to practice veterinary anesthesiology.

Authorized veterinary specialties have come a long way these past few years, and veterinary anesthesiology, in particular, has been in the center of attention due to its emphasis on easing the pain animals feel when undergoing surgical procedures. Industrial veterinarians, practitioners, and other contributors have helped develop the ACVAA over the years. ACVAA is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and it is a non-profit veterinary medical organization that helps promote and define the highest standards in the practice of veterinary analgesia and anesthesia.

The AVCAA designates veterinarians with the best training as experts in veterinary anesthesiology. It also issues certificates to those that meet the criteria, thus maintaining a list of the best veterinary anesthesiologists.

What type of education and training does a veterinary anesthesiologist have?

The AVCAA, the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia & Analgesia, is a medical specialty board authorized by the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVCAA has the sole authority to institute and preserve standards for the skill, training, and knowledge required for the designation of a candidate as a veterinary anesthesiology practitioner. Veterinarians approved by the ACVAA as recognized as Diplomates of the ACVAA.

The ACVAA Certificate is the sole recognized credential that acknowledges an individual’s expertise in the field of veterinary anesthesiology. The American College of Veterinary Anesthesia & Analgesia operates under the strict authority of the ABVS, the American Board of Veterinary Specialists as well as the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Association. An ACVAA diploma is the result of a multi-year residency training supervised by the AVCAA diplomats. The purpose of the training program is to help candidates attain a high level of skill, competency, and knowledge in providing analgesia and anesthesia care to animals of all kinds. The degree is offered after a rigorous examination process.

The education and training program in veterinary anesthesiology is meant to advance the competency and knowledge level of veterinary care providers. There are endorsement of certificate granting programs available, too. These can be attained by meeting the AVCAA rules and regulations. As far as the AVCAA authorized programs, these are:

  • European School for Advanced Veterinary Studies (ESAVS) Principles of small Animal Anesthesia and Perioperative Analgesia Program for Veterinary Nurses, Tierklinik Neandertal, Haan, Germany; Bernd Driessen, DVM, Ph.D., DACVAA, DECVPT (course master)
  • Veterinary Regional Anesthesia Bootcamp, Matthew Read, DVM, DACVAA (course master)

How long does it take to become a veterinary anesthesiologist?

The minimum amount of time required to become a veterinary anesthesiologist is 3 continuous years. During the training period, there shouldn’t be more than 2 weeks of sick leave per 12 months. Most veterinarians who specialize in anesthesiology work both in the public and private sectors. The most reputable institutions are:

  • College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Adelaide, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences
  • University of Wisconsin Department of Surgical Sciences
  • Cornell University Hospital for Animals
  • University of Queensland, School of Veterinary Science
  • Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center
  • LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Clinical Science
  • Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Clinical Sciences
  • Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Health Center
  • University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
  • MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets, MedVet Columbus
  • TAMU College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

Benefits of seeing a veterinary anesthesiologist

Pet owners should want to work with a veterinary anesthesiologist because such an expert is formally trained in this particular veterinary medical field. The specialty includes basic education and training skills in the treatment of animals of all kinds ready to undergo a surgical procedure. Unlike other specialists in the veterinary domain, an anesthesiologist is able to deal with life-threatening scenarios in an independent, timely and rational manner, and, therefore, is fully capable of assuming individual responsibility for aspects that are related to anesthesia. A veterinary anesthesiologist is at liberty to choose what chemical substances are needed to prepare the patient for surgery.

What does a veterinary anesthesiologist handle?

A veterinary anesthesiologist should be able to handle the following:

  • Anesthetic management of all kinds of animal patients for a diagnostic or surgical procedure
  • Anesthetic management of animals for critical care, emergency procedures or resuscitation
  • Pharmacology of anesthetic sedatives, anti-inflammatory agents, sedatives, analgesics, drugs used to treat other conditions, drugs that affect the respiratory or cardiovascular functions
  • Monitoring of the patient
  • Pain management
  • Ventilation management
  • Management of metabolic disturbances, fluid, and electrolyte therapy
  • Local/regional techniques in anesthesia
  • Diagnosis test results
  • Monitoring of anesthetic equipment

How-to qualify the specialist

A pet owner should ask a veterinarian anesthesiologist the following questions:

  • Will my pet get any kind of medication prior to the surgical intervention?
  • How exactly will my pet receive the anesthesia?
  • Should I expect any side effects from the anesthesia?
  • How will I be able to control my pet’s pain after the surgery?
  • Will the anesthesia affect the general condition of my pet?

Finding a veterinary specialist shouldn’t be that difficult. Most public and private veterinary clinics already have an appointed anesthesiologist. Before employing such an expert, the hospital, clinic or private practice will perform a background check on the candidate to make sure they have all the qualifications and credentials to become a veterinary anesthesiologist, and thus make sure that your pet is in the best hands during surgery.

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