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When Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian, received a recall notice involving the cat anesthetic drug ketamine, she promptly scoured her practice’s supplies and pulled the affected lot numbers. Nelson and other pet health specialists are on the alert because The Food and Drug Administration has issued recalls for certain lots of the commonly used drugs ketamine and butorphanol -- used to control surgery-related pain -- after the deaths of at least five cats were linked to the drugs.
Your veterinarian should be aware of the recall, says Nelson, who practices in Alexandria, Va. “If you’re going to a reputable, accredited veterinarian, you really shouldn’t have to worry about any of these lots being on the shelf,” she says.
Ketamine is often part of a “cocktail” veterinarians administer when placing cats under anesthesia. The recall, however, underscores the importance of the careful use of anesthesia in cats. “Anesthesia for any animal should be taken seriously, especially for older animals or animals that have special medical conditions,” says Dr. Tracy R. Dewhirst, a Knoxville, Tenn., veterinarian who writes a pet advice column for the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Evaluating the Risk of Cat Anesthesia
Your veterinarian should use a risk protocol before placing your cat under anesthesia. Factors such as the type of procedure and your cat’s age and health should be considered. For example, anesthesia for a young cat being neutered would rate as less risky than an elderly cat in renal failure going to a neurologist for a brain tumor section.
Bad reactions to anesthesia can range from not waking quickly to arrhythmias of the heart and full cardiac arrest, says Dewhirst. “The worst case, cardiac arrest, is pretty rare,” notes Dewhirst. “I’ve had that happen once in 10 years of practicing.”
The use of anesthesia shouldn’t prevent you from providing needed procedures for your kitty, such as spaying, neutering or dental cleaning, says Nelson. Although Nelson’s practice averages 10 to 20 anesthetic procedures a day, only two to three anesthetic reactions occurred over the entire last year.
A Cat Anesthesia Checklist
Asking the right questions can help ensure your cat’s safety when anesthesia is used. Dewhirst and Nelson say the following checklist will ensure your veterinarian is practicing safe cat anesthesia:
These guidelines should alleviate any concerns about cat anesthesia. “It’s very safe as long as your veterinarian is doing the proper monitoring,” says Nelson.
Kim Boatman is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat, based in Northern California whose work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.