Whippets, like other members of the Sighthound group of breeds, have traditionally had problems undergoing anesthesia for surgery. Thanks to advances in veterinary science, most veterinarians are aware of the special needs of these dogs when administering anesthesia and there are fewer problems today than in the past. That being said, every responsible Whippet owner should be aware of the dangers of anesthesia in Sighthounds in case there is a chance of having to undergo surgery during the dog's lifetime. In this article, we'll take a look at why Whippets need special care when being administered anesthesia and what you can do to make sure your dog will be safe if it has to undergo surgery.
First, it is important to understand how anesthesia works. General anesthesia, as opposed to localized anesthesia which only provides a loss of feeling for a particular part of the body, causes unconsciousness and a loss of feeling throughout the entire body. For many years, barbiturate anesthesia was considered to be the only safe type of anesthesia in veterinary medicine. The barbiturates worked by redistributing the anesthesia from the blood supply to the body fat in order to help the patient recover. Unfortunately, Whippets, like other Sighthounds, have a very low ratio of body fat to muscle mass, which often caused these dogs to stay unconscious for much extended periods of time, which can be very dangerous.
This lack of body fat in Whippets can also cause adverse reactions to the anesthesia in the heart, liver and kidney as well as neurological problems because there is little body fat to absorb the anesthetic. This can cause very serious complications during the surgery and can even lead to death.
Today, veterinary science has progressed enough that anesthesia is now available that Whippets and other Sighthounds can tolerate. This does not mean that a veterinarian can automatically use the same procedure on a Whippet than he would for a different breed. The best method for administering anesthesia for Whippets is to use a combination of a short term injected anesthesia and a gas anesthesia and oxygen mix. The local liquid short term anesthesia is used simply to render the dog unconscious so a tube can be placed in the windpipe to administer the gas and oxygen mix. The reason for this preference is that the gas can be very easily controlled by the veterinarian, making it the safest way to administer the anesthesia.
If you are facing surgery for your Whippet, take the time to talk over the procedure and your concerns about the anesthesia with your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian is aware of the risk of anesthetic reactions in Whippets and other Sighthounds, ask him about his experience in this area, and what he will do to ensure that the anesthesia will be administered in the safest way possible.