Surgery in Older Animals

buzzytoes

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This isn't really an advice post, just more opinions in general but I will give my own personal situation just to give a basis for discussion. We have a very senior kitty who will be 18 in April. He had a growth on his nose (looked like a wart) that we had removed summer of 2011 I believe. We didn't have it biopsied because his blood levels were all normal and didn't want to put him through the stress of chemo even if it was cancer. The growth has since come back and is now growing under his nose and mashing his face up. DH (it's his cat) wants to have it removed again now while there are no issues. He is afraid it may be growing into his brain or something. I am of the opinion that since it is not effecting his breathing, that we should leave it alone. He handled being put under quite fine before, but now he is a year older and it gets more dangerous the older they get.

With that said, how do you decide when the risk is worth the payoff?? I try to use the Quality of Life theory, but I'm sure that isn't the only criterion that people use. In this day and age do you feel like maybe it's not such a risk to put older animals under?
 

papertiger

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When our 15 yo Jack Russell (as small as a large cat) had a hip problem on his hind-quarter (a common occurrence in the breed) the vet told us they could operate but the problem may come back, plus of course all the stuff about putting-under older animals. He could hardly walk, poor little thing and he lived for his walks so he could patrol his neighbourhood. It was awful to see him in such pain and not being able walk even a couple of steps.

We took him in to the vet and dropped him off but when we reached home we turned around and went to fetch him back again. If anything would have happened from our decision it would have been awful.

With 'enforced' rest (whilst reducing his diet a little) he became better by himself. Had he not, I don't know what we would have done.
 

bagnshoofetish

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I would rather put an older animal under if absolutely necessary (i.e.; life or death) and if he/she passes away during the procedure at least it went peacefully. I do not like to wait until the animal is in clear pain or discomfort. An animal not showing any signs of pain or discomfort does not always mean they are not in it. Animals are hardwired to not show vulnerability, it is a survival mechanism. I have a vet I trust implicitly and I always tell her to give it to me straight. Whatever she recommends I go with. If she tells me sure your old dog/cat may appear to be fine right now but things could go downhill fast a a moments notice, that is a quality of life issue for me. I will not allow my animals to have to get that bad before I make some kind of decision. It takes a lot of love to allow an animal to pass on then to keep it around just because I can't let it go and try to convince myself its not feeling "that" bad and that is a hard place to get to I know. Nature takes care of these things in the "wild". We are the ones who prolong unneeded suffering sometimes IMO. If my vet tells me a disorder, growth or terminal illness etc. is making my pet uncomfortable or causing pain and the animal may be masking it, I start to prepare myself not to try to keep it alive for as long as possible, but prepare myself for allowing to let it go before it gets to be in obvious pain because at that point it has gone on way too far if an animal can no longer mask that pain.
 

renza

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If you trust your vet, I would say to follow their advice. If it is life or death and your pet is deemed healthy enough to undergo anaesthesia, then I would go for it. If it is not absolutely necessary I would probably just leave the problem alone.

My experience was with our German Shepherd, who started having extreme weakness in her back legs, inability to control her bladder, etc. very suddenly when she was nearly 13 years old. It turned out that she had a neurological problem in the base of her spine, and with surgery, they could most likely fix it and prolong her life. We decided to get the surgery for her because all of her vital organs were healthy, eyesight and hearing were impeccable, and she still had her love for food. She didn't even have arthritis or any other ailments common to old, large breed dogs. She came out of the surgery fine and able to walk and control her bladder again. It gave us another 9 months with her, which we cherished.
 

Cindi

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When it comes to my vet I trust her opinion 100%. She will give it to me straight. If the possible negatives outweigh the possible positives we will let it be. I had a tumor removed from my 10 year old Greyhound. She is 12 now and still going strong. It did turn out to be cancer and so far has not come back so we made the right decision there.
 

buzzytoes

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I am usually more of the "preventative" type. If I see a bump or something I am immediately going to the vet to have it checked out to make sure it doesn't have a chance of getting worse. I think I am probably more hesitant to take Darious in now because of the fact that he is my husband's best friend and if anything went wrong I would feel horrible. I just keep hoping that he will pass quietly in his sleep so that we won't have to make that decision. He is our oldest animal so this is our first experience with old age. I had cats and dogs growing up but obviously my parents made the decisions regarding their health. It sucks having to be the adult!
 

chessmont

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This isn't really an advice post, just more opinions in general but I will give my own personal situation just to give a basis for discussion. We have a very senior kitty who will be 18 in April. He had a growth on his nose (looked like a wart) that we had removed summer of 2011 I believe. We didn't have it biopsied because his blood levels were all normal and didn't want to put him through the stress of chemo even if it was cancer. The growth has since come back and is now growing under his nose and mashing his face up. DH (it's his cat) wants to have it removed again now while there are no issues. He is afraid it may be growing into his brain or something. I am of the opinion that since it is not effecting his breathing, that we should leave it alone. He handled being put under quite fine before, but now he is a year older and it gets more dangerous the older they get.

With that said, how do you decide when the risk is worth the payoff?? I try to use the Quality of Life theory, but I'm sure that isn't the only criterion that people use. In this day and age do you feel like maybe it's not such a risk to put older animals under?
Sorry you are having to deal with this buzzy...

I have thought about this a lot, having several senior pets, one with serious but manageble (not fixable) chronic health problems (including a serious heart problem) and he is 13 (a dog).

I think my approach would be to biopsy any of my pets' possible tumors or lumps. If it is cancerous then, well, if removing it might save or very much prolong life or vastly increase the quality, I would have the surgery. If the dog dies during Sx, as another poster said, they went peacefully, and the alternative is they will die or become terribly uncomfortable without the procedure, so to me that risk is worth it in these instances.

My bug a boo with my one buddy is his teeth are the worst you have ever seen, but I am scared to death to anesth for cleaning - there are no abscesses or fractures, just huge amounts of tartar. I can't seem to fit this situation into the little box of decision-making above.

So I have no easy answer, just some of my thoughts on the situation.

I say find out what the lump is first, it may help with the decision.
 
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buzzytoes

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He needs to have his teeth done as well (which was mentioned when he had the lump removed originally) but after the vet explained that a lot of the older animals will pass from teeth work because of the bacteria, I thought no way in hell will i do that unless he can't eat.

I think, in general, I trust surgery more when there is no risk of infection involved. If he had appendicitis (do animals even get that??) I would worry that removing something that's infected would cause things to leak in his system, just like bacteria from the teeth. Having a lump or two removed seems less invasive. I will take him into the vet regardless, and I do trust my vet so that is a bonus. I have a feeling he might be our second cat to get a human MRI done LOL
 

leasul2003

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My kitty is going to be 17 this year and she has had her teeth cleaned annually. The past couple years they put her under with gas instead of general anasthesia because it is safer. She's now due for her annual cleaning but I have been extremely leery of having it done since she developed kidney disease in the past year. Buzzy, I think your last post confirmed that I should be worried if there is a potential that the bacteria could potentially be fatal.
 

buzzytoes

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My kitty is going to be 17 this year and she has had her teeth cleaned annually. The past couple years they put her under with gas instead of general anasthesia because it is safer. She's now due for her annual cleaning but I have been extremely leery of having it done since she developed kidney disease in the past year. Buzzy, I think your last post confirmed that I should be worried if there is a potential that the bacteria could potentially be fatal.

Your girl might not have the same problems if she has been taken in annually. What my vet told me was that if they have really bad teeth (like to the point where they have to be removed) then sometimes what happens is the bacteria from their teeth can get into the bloodstream via those sockets where the teeth have been removed. The cat can come out of the surgery just fine, and then two days later get sick and die. I assume it probably makes them septic.
 

leasul2003

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That makes sense. I really trusted her old vet and if they said it would be ok, I probably wouldn't be so leery. But since, we moved and I've only taken her to this new vet 3 times. It concerns me me because they just aren't nearly as familiar w/ her as her old vet. I would be devastated if something happened to her.
 

boxermom

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I'm with shoo regarding our older dogs. If they likely won't live long unless surgery is done, we have gone ahead with it. One time it was our very senior rescue girl (no idea how old) whose gallbladder was diseased. It had to be removed in our vet's opinion and a 2nd vet's opinion, so we did it and she lived another 1.5 years before a massive heart attack took her.

Other times, if something (mostly tumors, which boxers are prone to get) isn't bothering too much, the older the dog, the less we fuss with it.

Younger dogs, we are very pro-active in their care. If there is any question, we call and/or visit the vet.
 

cats n bags

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I wanted to mention to the people concerned about dental disease that you should talk to your vet about "pre-loading" antibiotics prior to the dental work. They do this with people with a history of heart problems before they go to the dentist. You would get your script for the meds and set your surgery date. A few days before the surgery, you start the antibiotics to get them working in the body.

Your vet may also have other anesthesia options and precautions available to minimize the risks. This might cost a bit more, but you could be buying your pet both quantity and quality of life.
 

buzzytoes

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Thanks for bringing that up! My vet made no mention of that whatsoever and we were specifically speaking about cleaning in my senior cat. I wonder if that is something they do. We have a visit scheduled for Monday so I will try to bring that up since I know his teeth bother him a little.