Sedation in dogs

Sedation in dogs helps to make them both physically and mentally relaxed. There are several reasons why vets use sedation, such as for minor procedures, to help dogs with behavioural conditions and before a general anaesthetic to make your dog sleepy.


There are many options available for sedation in dogs. Your vet will work out what is best for your dog based on their age, breed, behaviour and if they have any health conditions. Sedation is different from general anaesthesia, as dogs are not fully asleep. Sedation can be used safely with dogs of all ages and sizes.

What it’s for

What is sedation used for in dogs?

Sedation is used for the following reasons in dogs:

  • To help them relax for minor procedures, such as cleaning wounds, doing an x-ray or ultrasound, thorough ear exam and taking a fine needle aspirate of a lump.
  • For both short and long-term anxiety, such as nail clipping, grooming, and firework phobias.
  • Before general anaesthesia to help reduce the amount of anaesthetic used and to smooth the process of when your dog falls asleep and wakes up.


Common drugs that are used for sedation in dogs:

Vets use one or more of the following drugs for sedation, usually in combination for better effects:

  • Opioids: methadone, buprenorphine, butorphanol
  • Alpha 2 agonists: medetomidine, dexmedetomidine
  • Benzodiazepines : diazepam, midazolam
  • ACP / acepromazine
  • Ketamine


Sedation drugs commonly used for anxiety include gabapentin, trazadone, diazepam, and alprazolam.

How it’s done

How are dogs sedated?

The following steps show what to expect if your dog needs to be sedated:

  • Your dog is brought into the practice as an inpatient, usually first thing in the morning
  • They are given a comfortable kennel for the day
  • When it is time for their procedure, your vet will inject your dog with sedation medication, either under the skin, in the muscle, or in the vein.
  • The procedure then takes place. Throughout the procedure, your dog is usually monitored carefully by a qualified nurse to check their heart rate, breathing rate, and other vital functions. Sedation may need to be topped up if the procedure takes longer than expected.
  • Your dog is sometimes given a reversal agent. They are then monitored until they are safe to go home.


sedation in dogs

How to prepare your dog for sedation

Your vet will usually advise starving your dog from the night before sedation. Take your dog to the toilet before bringing them into your vet practice. Make a note of any abnormal signs your dog has or any medication they are currently taking to bring to your admission appointment. Dogs that are very nervous may be given anti-anxiety medication the night before the procedure to help them relax. Using pheromone collars or travel sprays can help too.


How much does it cost to have your dog sedated?

The costs of sedation can vary widely depending on where you live, how much your dog weighs, if they are anxious, and how long the procedure lasts.

  • Costs usually include the drugs used for sedation and reversal, continuous monitoring, and equipment used, such as catheters and syringes.
  • Specialist hospitals and referral centres usually cost more than first opinion practices as they perform more complex procedures.
  • A rough estimate for sedation alone is £80-200


Is sedation safe in dogs?

Sedation is generally considered low risk for dogs. Complications can happen but they’re not common. The medications used for sedation in dogs come with risks due to changes in the blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. Your vet will take your dog’s age, breed, and any health issues into consideration when calculating their medication for sedation to minimise risks.

A pre-operative blood test is advised to check for abnormalities in organs such as the kidneys and liver. If possible, this is a good idea no matter what age your dog is.


Factors needing increased care with sedation:

  • Age: very young or elderly
  • Immunocompromised or unwell dogs
  • Overweight dogs
  • Breed: dogs with BOAS

Recovery tips

How to help your dog after sedation

Your dog will usually recover much more quickly after sedation than an anaesthetic. They will normally be quite sleepy, but should usually be back to their normal selves within 24-48 hours.

  • Make sure they have a comfortable and quiet area to rest and sleep
  • Your vet will usually advise a smaller meal than normal when they get home after the sedation
  • Reduce exercise for a few days (maybe longer, depending on the procedure)
  • Give any medication as advised by your vet

When to worry

When to worry about sedation in dogs

Seek help from a vet if:

  • Your dog has breathing problems after sedation
  • Your dog is in pain after sedation
  • Your dog is hard to wake-up


Call us and speak to one of our Joii vets if:

  • You have any concerns about sedation in dogs
  • You have concerns about your dog’s behaviour
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