The decision to put your dog through surgery can be a difficult one, especially if you have an older dog. As a dog ages, surgery can have a greater physical impact on him—and his recuperation time may be longer. However, for a senior dog in relatively good health—one with no life-threatening illnesses—surgery may be the best option. Here are some common conditions where surgery can make a positive impact on a senior dog's lifestyle.
While joint replacement surgery doesn't ensure that your dog will be ready to chase after frisbees like he did as a pup, it can help eliminate much of the pain caused by dysplastic or arthritic hips. And, for a senior dog with the spirit to frolic and explore, it can make a significant difference in his quality of life.
A total hip replacement (THR) is a procedure that is comparable to a human hip replacement. By replacing the damaged joints with artificial ones, pain is nearly eliminated. This procedure is expensive, but it's very effective.
Cataract removal is a delicate surgical procedure. First, your dog must undergo a thorough examination and a series of tests to ensure that he's a good surgical candidate. There are two common types of surgery to remove cataracts—extracapsular extraction and phacoemulsification, which tends to be the preferred technique in veterinary medicine. This procedure uses ultrasonic vibrations to liquefy the lens. Once the lens is liquefied, it is removed from the eye through a small incision. For this type of procedure, post-surgical treatment is very important.
Lumps and tumors
If a tumor is small and easily accessible, surgery is usually recommended. Removing the tumor while it's still small makes it easier to eliminate the entire tumor. Larger tumors may require more extensive surgery and carry greater risk.
The dangers of anesthesia
Most veterinarians feel that older animals are at an increased risk of anesthetic complications. Older pets are more likely to have other problems—such as heart valve insufficiencies, kidney damage or liver damage—which make anesthesia a greater risk. However, old age is not a disease. Therefore, if a pet is healthy and does not have any serious ailments, such as heart failure, then general anesthesia is usually recommended and surgery can be performed.
Post-surgical pain management
If you decide that your dog needs surgery, be sure to talk to your vet beforehand to determine what kind of treatment will be required afterwards and how much support your vet will be able to provide. You also need to know how much post-procedure care you will be required to do at home. These are important considerations, and they may play a part in your decision to take your dog in for a surgical procedure.