Are Whippets Sensitive To Anesthesia?

Taking your whippet to the vet is often a stressful experience for both your dog and yourself.

And while the situation is often stressful, it’s important to use common sense during these situations. If you think something could go wrong or just seems off, then it probably will.

One of the biggest fears for any pet owner is anesthesia sensitivity in their dogs, including whippets.

In this post we answer, are whippets sensitive to anesthesia?

In a nutshell, yes, they absolutely are. This is especially true if your whippet is a smaller breed or a young whippet.

But there is more to learn, let’s take a closer look…

Whippets Are Sensitive To Anesthesia

Anesthesia sensitivity isn’t to be confused with being afraid of the vet’s office either.

It’s not the same as being fearful around strangers, loud noises, or other animals.

In fact, anesthesia sensitivity has absolutely nothing to do with fear at all, and it’s not the same as being anxious.

I even think it’s important to mention that anesthesia sensitivity isn’t to be confused with aggression either.

Anesthesia sensitivity means your whippet is more likely than most dogs to have an adverse reaction once he or she has been given a drug with sedative properties, such as the anesthetic needed to complete a surgery.

To be more specific, whippets are likely to experience what is called “malignant hyperthermia” once they have been given anesthesia.

This condition can quickly turn life-threatening if left untreated.

As soon as your veterinarian begins to administer the anesthetic, your whippet should be closely monitored by at least one staff member trained to recognise the signs of malignant hyperthermia.

If you have any doubts about how your dog will react to anesthesia, ask your vet if he or she is able to test for malignant hyperthermia before administering it.

Then, be sure to carefully follow all post-operative instructions regarding your dog’s activity level to reduce his or her chances of overheating.

Why Are Whippets Sensitive To Anesthesia?

But why are whippets sensitive to anesthesia? This is largely down to their low percentage of body fat, which affects the speed at which their bodies metabolise anesthesia.

Whippets are also more sensitive to anesthetics due to their high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fiber, which causes them to have less myoglobin in their muscles.

Myoglobin is a protein that binds oxygen within muscle cells, so having less of it means there’s not as much oxygen in the whippets’ muscles, which means that it is more difficult for whippets to produce enough energy when they are anesthetised.

This low percentage of body fat has another effect on anesthesia: because there isn’t much fat between the skin and muscle tissue.

It is important that whippet owners familiarise themselves with the potential health risks of their breed before having elective procedures done.

If your dog is a whippet, anesthesia may come with some extra side effects and precautions you’ll need to take.

It’s not just whippets that are sensitive to anesthesia either, many sighthounds such as Italian Greyhounds, Greyhounds, Salukis, and more are also under the same caution.

Is Anesthesia Safe For Whippets?

Anesthesia is generally safe for whippets providing they don’t have any other pre-existing health conditions.

Although whippets are sensitive to anesthesia, they aren’t as bad as other breeds for some reason.

Whippets metabolise the anesthetic more slowly than most breeds, therefore taking longer to wake up.

I’m by no means a veterinarian but I’ve had whippets that have been under anesthesia before and been just fine.

Of course, this is going to depend on your individual dog and the veterinarian you take it to.

Speak to your vet if for a more in-depth explanation on whether anesthesia is fully safe and what the risks are.

What Are The Risks Of Anesthesia For Whippets?

As with all breeds, there are some risks associated with anesthesia.

The biggest risk is that the dog will not wake up after the surgery or procedure.

This is typically a small risk, it’s usually easily resolved but there are some unfortunate incidences of dogs not waking up from anesthesia.

In most cases, this is due to an underlying condition, such as a tumor.

Another risk is that the dog will have a reaction to the anesthesia.

This could be anything from a mild allergic reaction to major organ failure, depending on what kind of anesthesia is used and how sensitive your dog is to it.

Anesthetic allergies are easily treated if they occur but can cause serious side effects – even death – if not recognised early.

Generally, the risks of anesthesia are low, but in sighthounds and whippets they do increase, this is why it’s crucial that you make your vet aware of this sensitivity before dropping them off there.

Even though vets should already know this information, every time I leave my whippets at the vets I make sure I let them know this beforehand for my own peace of mind.

Important Considerations

You can find out if they are sensitive by asking your vet to give them a small dose in advance of the surgery, in case their body rejects it.

This means the vets will be able to better manage their pain post-op and there’s less chance of allergic reaction.

I am always very cautious and try and get everything I can out of the vets before they go in for surgery.

Whippets are not only sensitive to anesthesia but also very sensitive to pain medication after surgery, so be sure you’re aware of this before you take them in.

It is important that whippets get a correct sedative because sedatives for other breeds can be strong enough to kill a whippet.


As a whole, yes, whippets are sensitive to anesthesia and they don’t do well with it.

However, are whippets the only breed that is sensitive to anesthesia? No, there are others that are as well – breeds like Italian Greyhounds and Chihuahuas.

So before you decide if your dog is too sensitive for surgery, talk to your vet first.

They are the experts in this field and likely know your dog better than you.

Don’t let this one aspect of whippets scare you away from bringing one into your family – they are wonderful, loving animals that will offer you companionship and loyalty for the rest of their lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it useful.

Remember, if you have any concerns please speak with your vet for some expert advice beforehand.

Other Popular Post