Monday, July 1, 2013

Basenjis and Anesthesia

"About to take my B to get her teeth cleaned and a little nervous about her going to sleep for it - should I worry...?"

So queried one of our adopters recently on BRAT's Facebook page. 

To ease her mind, I sent her to the doggie dental page on BRAT's website, I actually wrote that page because I had been in the same quandary when Ruby had to have her teeth cleaned for the first time. My vet was a great guy -- he allowed me to come into the surgery to watch and photograph the procedure. One of the important points made was that Basenjis should be treated with the same anesthetic protocol as Greyhounds, because of the similar way they metabolize drugs.

My webpage was written in 2005. When another Facebook reader replied that medical warnings issued for sighthounds are intended for dogs of "Greyhound-type descent", not necessarily for Basenjis, I decided to ask around, just in case the guidelines had changed.

Well, in a way, yes, they have. Some vets felt they were being bashed for not using the 'Sighthound Protocol', when in fact, it's not so much breed that must be taken into consideration as it is the fat-to muscle ratio of the individual dog. Sighthounds, as a rule, are lean and fast, with more muscle than fat.  Although the Basenji is not a Greyhound, Whippet, or Saluki, it does, naturally, have less fat than, say, a Laborador Retriever or a German Shepherd.  And, it has been documented that 'sighthound breeds' are more sensitive to some of the ultra short-acting thiobarbiturate induction drugs. 

Most deaths secondary to anesthesia that occur in sighthounds can be attributed to older generation drugs and anesthetic agents, particularly thiopental, pentobarbital, and halothane. These are all fat-soluble drugs, which is to say they are preferentially absorbed by fat. As the drugs are absorbed by fat, the concentration in the brain and bloodstream is decreased and eventually eliminated. However, because sighthounds have so little fat, the concentrations remain high in blood and brain tissue, which results in deep sedation and prolonged recovery.

Fortunately, there are a number of safe, short-acting drugs, incuding Propofol, or a combination of diazepam and ketamine; and the newest inhalant anesthetics, Isoflurane and Sevoflurane are also quickly eliminated from the lungs.

So, the simple answer to the question of whether to use a sighthound anesthesia protocol for your Basenji is yes - but if your Basenji is on the chunky side, he or she will most likely do just fine on the anesthesia protocol your vet normally uses and has the most experience with.

Equally important is that you always opt for pre-surgical blood work to identify any underlying issues with kidneys or liver that could compromise your Basenji's surgical outcome. Don't gamble with his life by skimping on cost!

Sooner or later, your Basenji probably will require professional dental care. In the meantime, watch the  'junk food', get into the habit of brushing your Basenji's teeth regularly (with specially formulated dog toothpaste, not Colgate or Crest!), and remember that anesthesia safety is all about fat-to-muscle ratio.

Does your Basenji look like sweet little 'plus size' Nicky? Your vet's 'regular' anesthesia of choice is mostly likely a safe one.  Incidentally, Nicky, owned and loved by Anne and Don MacMillan, is 16 years old and still 'bouncy'!

(photo by Donald MacMillan)

On the other hand, if your Basenji is built more like somewhat thinner Ruby, be sure to ask your vet to use the 'sighthound anesthesia protocol'. 

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