Sunday, April 18, 2010

31. Old dogs take a longer time to heal

Young people recover fast. But old people take a longer time to recover from illness and surgery. Does this apply to old dogs? Yes.

Each vet has his or her own idea on whether to spay a dog presented with breast tumours and excise the tumours in one anaesthesia and surgery. I always advise spay first and tumour removal 2 weeks later so that the old dog had a higher survival rate during and after surgery. Spaying a dog would take some time. Breast tumour removal takes more time.

As most Singaporean owners are interested in economics, one procedure would satisfy the owner. If the dog does not die. If the dog dies, too bad for the owner. He still has to pay up as he has had signed a surgery and anesthesia consent form informing him of the risks involved.

What about the interest of the old dog? This ought to be paramount. Survival rates are much higher if the anaesthesia is not prolonged as the dog's health is not so good. But the owner has to be sophisticated and educated to understand. And many don't. I had a case of closed pyometra and breast tumours. After spaying to resolve the pyometra problem and not excising the breast tumours at the same time so as to shorten the anaesthetic time and enhance survival rate, the owner forgot about the breast tumour removal advices. That is the typical attitude of many dog owners of older dogs.

So, some vets may feel that it is better to spay and excise breast tumours at one go and this is OK if the dog does not die.

In one case I encounter, the dog had spay, breast tumour removal and dental scaling by a vet. This 13-year-old Pom just looked half dead the next day. I thought it was the end. A maroon redness spread over the breast area. The next day, the sternal area was also red maroon. That meant the whole belly and groin area was dark red due to scratching or licking. The dog seemed to feel very painful despite pain-killer medication.

The dog would not eat and had to be hand-fed with canned food for the next 7 days but she looked brighter on day 7. I/V drips were given. Medication too. Still the dog would not eat on her own.

"Was there any blood test done?" I asked the owner. Apparently not. The couple was lucky to have a dog alive. In such cases, much depends on the vet's decision and the consent of the owner to take the risk in a 3-in-one operation. If the dog lives, it is considered "lucky". If the old dog dies after surgery, it is considered "unlucky."

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