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Equine Anaesthesia Explained - Part 1

September 18th, 2019

We understand that having your horse undergo a general anaesthetic can be a stressful time. In part due to their size, horses have a higher incidence of mortality during anaesthesia than most other species. At Cambridge Equine Hospital, we have a number of experienced anaesthetists and the highest quality equipment to reduce the associated risks and ensure that our anaesthetics are as smooth as possible. Below is an outline of what happens during a general anaesthetic at our hospital.


  • All patients have a thorough physical examination performed before surgery. 
  • The horse will be pre-medicated with a combination of sedatives and an intravenous catheter placed in the jugular (neck) vein.
  • Once sedated, the horse is walked into a padded “knock-down” box, and placed against one wall. A swing door is positioned against the side of the horse
  • The anaesthetic agent is administered via the IV catheter. After approx 20s the horse will become anaesthetised and gradually sink to the floor
  • An endo-tracheal tube is placed, this allows the horse to breathe the gases which maintain anaesthesia during the procedure.
  • The horse is hoisted on to the table, positioned for the surgery, and attached to the anaesthetic circuit. 
  • The anaesthetic gas is mixed with oxygen, flows through the circuit, and is absorbed by the lungs. From here it passes into the bloodstream and acts on the brain to exert its anaesthetic effect.
  • Monitoring of heart rate, CO2 levels, blood pressure and oxygen saturation occurs during the procedure. More on this in part 2.
  • Once surgery is completed, the horse is lifted back off the table and placed into a padded recovery room. Recovery time is variable, but the majority of horses are standing within 1 hour.
Topics: Surgery

About Us

Cambridge Equine Hospital is the largest equine practice in the country, with fifteen veterinarians solely dedicated to equine work. Situated in Cambridge, we have been providing top quality equine veterinary services to clients in the Waikato area for over 30 years. We cater for all types of horses, from ponies through to elite performance and breeding horses.



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