5 common myths about veterinary anesthesia risks


Help clients understand exactly what's involved before their pet undergoes a surgical or dental procedure.

At some point in your career, you've surely been faced with a hysterical client. You know the type: She's paranoid about the dangers of even the most common, simple veterinary procedures. If she's not biting her lip nervously while you examine her pet, she might be avoiding your office altogether out of fear.

This can especially be a problem when the procedure requires anesthesia. Things can and occasionally do go wrong during these procedures, but do your clients know that complications during these procedures are rare? Are they aware of how diligently you and your team members work to minimize potential complications and ensure your patients' wellbeing?

If not, then it's important for you to help clients to understand anesthesia and how it could affect their pet. But that can often be challenging, says veterinary anesthesiologist Dr. Kurt Grimm, PhD, owner of Veterinary Specialist Services in Conifer, Colo.

"I would say the public's general knowledge of veterinary anesthesia is pretty basic," Dr. Grimm says. "A lot of the time, they know more about how human anesthesia is performed, since they may have had anesthesia themselves. The average person doesn't have a good idea of what actually happens during a veterinary procedure."

Unfortunately, that's often because they hesitate to ask questions during appointments, Dr. Grimm says. Many rely on untrustworthy sources of information—like unqualified Internet sites—when researching the risks involved with anesthesia. "Some clients don't want you to use a certain type of drug because they've read somewhere that it's a problem with their dog's breed," Dr. Grimm says. And while some Internet information may be legitimate or partially correct, many clients read everything as fact—even when it's not.

To address these misconceptions, it's crucial that you maintain an open line of communication with your clients, Dr. Grimm says. Encourage them to ask questions and walk them through the planned procedure step by step—even the recovery process. Be open about the risks involved with anesthesia, but make sure clients are aware how you plan to manage the risks with proper care and monitoring, so they'll have less to worry about.

Try to be patient with clients who come in with a long list of questions or concerns. Remember: Though they might occasionally find misinformation on the Internet, anytime they're communicating with you about how you'll care for their pets, it's a good thing. "As time has evolved, my view of the Internet has changed from mainly negative to positive," Dr. Grimm says. "It creates an opportunity for me to educate clients."

To do this, you need to make sure they're getting the right information. Click here to download a list of some of the most common myths about veterinary anesthesia. Discuss the information with your clients before their pets need anesthesia—then watch their trust in your expertise grow.

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