Should I put my dog through surgery? A Complete Guide

Speak with your veterinarian about your concerns.

Have a frank discussion with your vet about surgery and share any concerns you have. Veterinarians are well aware that anesthesia and surgery can be life threatening for any animal and want to make sure you as a pet parent are comfortable moving forward. Open communication is best for everyone!

A dog owner’s decision to choose surgery for her senior dog

Should I put my dog through surgery?

How to reduce the risks of surgery for your senior dog

Senior dogs can have unique anesthetic considerations (see Is My Dog Too Old for Anesthesia) and may have more prolonged recovery periods than their younger counterparts. But that doesn’t mean that surgery should be off the table for them.

The good news is that many older dogs can do great during and after surgery, and we stand a chance at significantly improving their quality of life.

  • A thorough work-up prior to anesthesia should be part of the plan for any dog that is having surgery, but this is especially important for older dogs.
  • Senior dogs can have underlying health issues that we don’t know about. Performing a physical exam, diagnostic tests like blood work (including blood cell count and chemistry), X-rays, and sometimes even ultrasounds of the abdomen or heart (depending on what the surgery is and what the individual dog’s health history is) may be warranted before proceeding. Identifying (and managing) underlying health concerns before surgery can significantly reduce the risks of anesthesia.
  • Your vet may also recommend more in-depth monitoring for your pet during surgery itself. Vets can routinely measure heart rate, oxygen levels, body temperature, blood pressure, and more.
  • If your veterinarian doesn’t have the monitoring equipment he or she thinks would be best for your dog’s surgery, he or she may recommend referral to a board-certified veterinary surgeon for the procedure.
  • With your dog’s health history in mind, your vet can steer you in the right direction to make a sound decision on whether surgery is the best choice for your grey-muzzled companion.

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    Some of us fortunate dog owners will, at some point in time, have the great honour of living with a senior dog. Senior dogs make me laugh. Our relationship develops in a completely different way then it did when these dogs were my “competition partners.” What defines “senior,” I think is for each of us to decide. For me personally, I think age is just a number. My birth certificate may read that I am 51 years old but I will not buy into that! I believe the same holds true for my dogs.

    My oldest dog today “Buzz” (who will be 16 years old in less than a month) has always lived with such joy. He truly exemplifies living each day as if it was your birthday and he has been that way since the day I brought him home as a 7-week old puppy.

    A few months ago I had Buzz’s “wellness” blood work done at my vet clinic. When my vet herself made the phone call about the results I was a bit panicked (isn’t that the job of a vet tech??). Panic was replaced with relief as Dr. Kelly announced in a rather surprised voice that Buzz’s wellness profile looked very similar to a 5-year-old dog. No values where elevated anywhere. Hurray for Buzz!

    As Buzzy has aged he has developed a collection of “lumps” or Lipomas all over his body. These are relatively harmless fat deposits under the skin that many dogs acquire as they grow older. A few years ago when crazy man Buzz knocked out one of his front teeth (and needed a surgery to remove a root) I decided to remove his biggest two lumps which hung down under his chest.

    Buzz’s body started betraying him as a 5-year-old so over the past 11 years he has had to do a lot of “compensating” to get around. Still, he will not be denied. When I set out to take the dogs for their “big walk” around our field Buzz always wants in. Don’t anyone suggest he is “too old” for the hills (there are a lot of them). Even though it only takes 15 minutes to make the trip around, the hills and uneven surface of the field make it challenging for a “senior” dog.