Explaining arrhythmia under anesthesia

When a pet owner asks about arrhythmia under general anesthesia, veterinarian Padma Yadlapalli explains that the issue can result from medications or underlying medical problems. Dr. Yadlapalli writes that in most cases, the arrhythmia can be corrected, but she recommends a frank conversation with a veterinarian to discuss the risks and benefits of anesthesia and the procedure for which it’s needed. Dr. Yadlapalli emphasizes that dental cleanings under anesthesia are an important part of preventive care. The Baltimore Sun

When my Chihuahua had her teeth cleaned last week, the vet said her heart rate went down into the high 60s and that an episode of second-degree heart block occurred, but they reversed it with meds. Does this mean she is at risk of it happening again under anesthesia? Other than perhaps a follow-up EKG at her next comprehensive exam, should anything else be done? I am scared to have her teeth cleaned again.

First, I would schedule a consult with this pet’s veterinarian and review the risks and the benefits of the procedure.

That said, there are a certain possibilities that could cause the heart rate to drop or cause an arrhythmia. Some medications used to anesthetize pets have the potential to cause bradycardia (a slow heart rate) or other forms of arrhythmia. The good news is that when you have good equipment and, most important, skilled personnel monitoring anesthetized pets to watch for these issues, you can correct them before major problems arise. And some of these medications can be reversed to eliminate those side effects.

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