A cat might have dilated eyes after a general anesthetic. This may worry the cat’s owner because anesthetics can harm or, rarely, even kill a cat. However, anesthetics have greatly improved over recent years and are considered safe. Although, I had to sign a consent form before the operation indicating some risk. No doubt, this is standard procedure.
The reason why I am writing this very short post is because my cat has recently undergone dental cleaning and repair together with another procedure – an endoscopy of the intestine – under general anesthetic. When I picked him up his eyes were permanently dilated. Dilated eyes (actually the pupils) look like the eyes in the photo below. This is not my cat. I couldn’t photograph him. I was too concerned about him:
When I saw Charlie’s eyes I immediately notice his dilated pupils. I remarked about it to my vet (the best vet I have employed). She said it was the adrenaline. I didn’t ask a follow-up question that would explain what she meant, despite being interested. I was too wound up.
However my research indicates that adrenaline (also called “epinephrine”) is used sometimes in anesthetics to improve the way the anesthetic works. My research tells me that it increases the nerve block and decreases bleeding as it is a strong vasoconstrictor (it narrows the blood vessels).
The adrenaline effect lasted until the following morning having picked him up in the evening the day before. I presume that adrenaline causes the eyes to dilate as it excites that part of the cat once he is awake. It makes parts of his anatomy more alert when awakened. This heightened state of alertness makes the eyes dilate so they let in more light to see better. I think that is the theory. Or the blood vessels feeding the retina are constricted making the eye less sensitive to light resulting in a compensation through dilated eyes.
My cat is still dopey and not himself but the eyes can be dilated. It looks a bit strange and disconcerting, but things get back to normal in due course.
I wrote this post to reassure some people who might have the same concerns as me after agreeing to anesthetise their cat.
Charlie is back to normal both in voice and with respect to his eyes.