- Global Canine Communication, The World's First Public Website Launched 1998



"There is NO PLACEBO effect in animals!"


Share this with your dog club members or any friend who may be going under anesthesia. Know how to prevent or deal with memory problems - before you forget you have them.





by Barbara "BJ" Andrews, AKC Master Breeder and SAAB


Does your pet (or parent) seem forgetful, absent minded, distracted, confused, even disobedient or unable to concentrate on training after surgery? Go behind the secret surgical curtain!


behind the secret surgical curtainForgetfulness is a normal part of aging in all species.  Does your cat or dog get “lost” in the corner of a room or sleep a lot more?  Is it normal aging or has he been under general anesthesia for an injury, tooth cleaning, etc.?


A subscriber alerted our staff when she asked "What is the protocol for documenting vitals during surgery?" I'm  convinced my dog has dementia from dental surgery but my vet is not about to tell me."  30 seconds on google reveled: "... most deaths occur after, not during surgery"  and that "permanent partial memory loss and/or inability to remember and perform simple tasks post-surgery is a condition often blamed on Alzheimer's disease."


I had to dig deeper because anesthesia-induced memory loss is pretty well concealed by the medical and veterinary community. I found "Memory loss, thinking problems after surgery" at the University Of Florida.  Post-surgery decline in brain function is characterized by subtle changes in memory, difficulty learning new information and/or the ability to do two or more things at the same time while ignoring distractions. The 2014 study was based on statistical medical data showing "about 40 percent of older adults experience such difficulties immediately following major surgery and 14 percent of patients continue to have problems even three months later."


The prevailing position is that "experts don’t know" what causes memory loss.  (Of course they do ... unless they've recently undergone surgery and can't recall anything!)  The anesthesia blocks the pain signals a fully functioning brain would receive and obviously, it blocks all memory of the surgery but it should not affect the fully awake and completely recovered brain cells.


One medical source stated "The staggering loss of cognitive function and short term memory" statistics are believed to be much higher than 40%. The UNF study called anesthesia-induced memory loss "postoperative cognitive changes" and states it may be linked to "the length of the procedure and type and amount of anesthesia administered"  and otherwise downplayed anesthesia-induced memory loss.


Memory loss following anesthesia is harder to document in an animal but here's my observation through information gleaned from dog owners. Post-anesthesia decline in brain function may cause your dog to temporarily forget house-training, family routines, obedience or trick training commands and to appear genuinely confused over simple things such as where he/she sleeps.


In both pets and people, more severe brain damage may not be and is characterized by an inability to learn new information or to do two or more things at once.  In show or obedience training, the normal ability to ignore distractions is compromised in an otherwise well-trained dog.


Anesthesia damage can also change personality and behavior patterns.  On anesthesia and dementia states "These changes are sometimes severe enough to alter the personality of the affected person, or to interfere with their ability to perform normal activities."


There is an inordinate lack of information relating to the effects of anesthesia on pets. Certainly a person facing surgery already has concerns or they wouldn't be searching for loss-of-memory risk factors. The blurb is typical in that it treats damage to the human brain and loss of cognitive function rather lightly, characterizing it as "Anesthesia may have lingering side effects on the brain, even years after an operation" but this jumped off the page "... confusion and memory loss that sometimes follows anesthesia. ... in turn unmask an underlying brain defect or the early stages of dementia..." published a report which states in part "Anesthetics activate memory-loss receptors in the brain..." and this tidbit, "Animal studies showed this chain reaction has long-term effects on the performance of memory-related tasks." Okay, so both humans and animals can suffer long-term memory loss so what can you do to prevent or minimize cognitive dysfunction in yourself or your dog.


How to prevent or reduce anesthesia-related memory loss?


You've already taken the first step. You are reading this. In 2011, the National Institute Of Health reported 764,000 google searches for “anesthesia memory loss” but only a few of the returns were from peer-reviewed journals. Disgraceful! The medical community and veterinarians are well aware of the anesthesia risk as regards memory and cognitive function. In 2012 the NIH published Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s Disease and General Anesthesia: A Preoperative Concern.  Today more people are demanding disclosure on anesthesia-related memory loss.


Protect your brain before and after general anesthesia


If you will require general anesthesia YOU NEED TO KNOW how to minimize the after-effects. Vitamin and supplement sites tout everything from vitamin B "cocktails" to colonic cleansing but our researchers wanted to give you solid, useful information and this is what we found most helpful.


Vitamin "B" was high on our list even though there isn't any definitive information linking it to cognitive problems caused by anesthesia. However, the National Academy of Sciences found that vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid may help slow the progression of the Alzheimer's Disease which is of course, brain related. Until there is more information on the long-term effects to the brain which can occur under general anesthesia, we say make sure you and your pets get abundant "B" complex from natural sources.


Milk thistle protects the liver which is what rids the body of toxins associated with anesthetics administered during surgery. Milk thistle also prevents the depletion of glutathione, a potent antioxidant. Milk thistle is safe for dogs and is frequently used to treat diabetes, liver failure, and IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). It is also useful for dogs that are on phenobarbitol to prevent epileptic seizures as phenobarb can be toxic to the liver. Milk thistle can be purchased in powder form and it is best to begin use at least a week before surgery and continue for at least two weeks afterward.


From Andrew Weil, MD we learned that ginkgo biloba, an herb which can enhance memory by increasing circulation to the brain, may help prior to and after surgery. The recommendation is 120 mg daily in divided doses with food.


Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, medical director and president of the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation in Tucson recommends 200 mg a day of phosphatidylserine (PS) to augment the effect of ginkgo. PS may have a blood-thinning effect, so use with caution if you or your pets are on anticoagulant meds.


Several medical sites recommend pure cinnamon for prevention of brain degeneration caused by Alzheimer's and cognitive problems associated with anesthesia. Dogs find it palatable when sprinkled on their food.


Turmeric root or powder (curcumin) is the world's most expensive spice but it goes a long way. Turmeric is recommended for detoxing the system so you can try adding it to the diet prior to and after general anesthesia.


Dietary recommendations before and after surgery. While you or your dog recovers from anesthesia, steer clear of saturated fats, including meat and dairy (whey protein powder is a good protein alternative) any refined sugar (you'd be surprised what is in dog food!). Both can slow or block the flow of liver bile making it harder for the body to eliminate toxins like anesthetics.


Milk thistle, water-soluble fiber such as oat bran, apples, beets, and carrots contain compounds that aid in detoxification. Your dog should readily accept them when mixed with his regular meat diet.  In addition, include foods that are rich in sulfur which helps the liver clear toxins. Tasty sulfur-rich foods include garlic, onions and egg yolks. Your dog will love them! staff hopes that you will not need this information but "just in case" you or a family member (your dog) should face surgery, save this to your favorite places. We also invite you to share it with your dog club members or any friend who may be going under anesthesia.


It is better to know how to prevent memory problems than to forget that you have them! EST 1998 © Aug 2015-1651911



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