Prevalence and risk factors for canine post-anesthetic aspiration pneumonia (1999-2009): a multicenter study

Vet Anaesth Analg. 2014 Mar;41(2):127-36. doi: 10.1111/vaa.12110.


Objective: To determine the incidence of canine post-anesthetic aspiration pneumonia (AP) and to identify anesthetic agents, procedures and management factors associated with the development of AP.

Study design: Multicenter, randomized, case-controlled retrospective study.

Animals: Two hundred and forty dogs affected with AP and 488 unaffected control dogs.

Methods: Electronic medical record databases at six Veterinary colleges were searched for dogs, coded for anesthesia or sedation and pneumonia from January 1999 to December 2009. The resultant 2158 records were hand-searched to determine eligibility for inclusion. Diagnosis of AP was made radiographically. Two unaffected control dogs were randomly selected for each affected dog, from a list of dogs that underwent sedation or anesthesia in the same time period and did not develop aspiration pneumonia. Fifty-seven factors were then evaluated for association with aspiration pneumonia. Data analysis was performed using univariate Chi-square or student t-tests, then multivariate logistic regression.

Results: Incidence of post-anesthetic AP was 0.17%, from 140,711 cases anesthetized or sedated over the 10 year period. Two anesthesia-related events were significantly associated with development of AP: regurgitation and administration of hydromorphone at induction. Administration of anticholinergics was not associated with AP. Procedures associated with increased odds of aspiration pneumonia included laparotomy, upper airway surgery, neurosurgery, thoracotomy and endoscopy. Orthopedic surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, dental procedures, MRI, CT, bronchoscopy, cystoscopy, tracheoscopy and neutering were not associated with development of AP. Three patient factors were associated with the development of AP: megaesophagus, and a history of pre-existing respiratory or neurologic disease. Sixty-nine% of dogs with two or more of the above independent predictive variables developed AP.

Conclusion and clinical relevance: Most anesthetic agents and procedures were not associated with the development of AP. We need to devise and evaluate strategies to protect at risk patients.

Keywords: anesthesia; complications; dogs; endoscopy; megaesophagus; neurosurgery; pulmonary; thoracotomy; upper airway surgery.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia / veterinary*
  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / etiology*
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Male
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / veterinary*
  • Postoperative Complications / veterinary*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology