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Is My 11-Year-Old Great Dane Too Old for Surgery?

Great DaneI would like to know if my 11-year-old Great Dane should have surgery at his age.

He has a cyst the size of a half dollar on his back that bursts and bleeds. It gets a scab, then something will bump it and it starts bleeding again. He can’t scratch it.

I clean it all the time and he gets antibiotics. I’m afraid the surgery will kill him.

– Caroline, Orlando, Fla.

Hi Caroline,

Thank you for your question.

It is unfortunately very common for people to believe their pet is too old to go under anesthesia. Age is not a disease, yet your dog’s pruritic (itchy), hemorrhagic (bleeding) skin mass (possibly a cyst, but it should be sent off for biopsy once it is surgically removed) is certainly creating a variety of health problems that are entirely resolvable.

Regardless of age, anesthesia can be performed, provided a pet is deemed healthy enough by the overseeing veterinarian.

On more occasions that I can count, a new client has told me, “My other veterinarian said my pet is too old to have a teeth cleaning (or other procedure) under anesthesia.” Such circumstances make me cringe, as this advice really amounts to a lack of proper emphasis put on preventing a variety of potentially irreversible diseases associated with chronic inflammation and infection.

The mouth (and skin) is full of bacteria that enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body when the opportunity presents itself. Inflamed gums (gingivitis) are extremely common and provide such a window of opportunity. If the underlying issue (periodontal disease or your dog’s skin mass) can be resolved, then there is a much less likelihood your pet will suffer the consequences associated with permitting the problem to go unresolved, such as abnormalities with his heart, kidney, liver, immune or other body system.

Anesthesia can be done safely by an experienced veterinarian and technician team. Before your dog is anesthesized, blood testing should be done to evaluate your dog’s kidneys, liver, red/white blood cells, platelets, etc. A chest X-ray can determine if his lungs appear healthy enough to handle inhalant anesthesia. Additionally, an ECG (electrocardiogram) can determine if there are any abnormalities with his heart that would inhibit his ability to properly pump blood during anesthesia.

While your dog is under anesthesia for the mass removal, to help prevent any bacteria in his mouth from entering his bloodstream, take the opportunity to have his teeth cleaned and any unhealthy teeth removed.

If your veterinarian is uncomfortable performing the procedures on your dog, ask for a referral to a specialist (a board-certified veterinary surgeon and/or dentist).

I am pleased to hear that you are keeping your dog’s skin issue clean. I don’t like to hear that he consistently needs to get antibiotics, as this could potentially leave him susceptible to resistant infections.

Putting your dog on a supplement like i Love Dogs Reishi with Green Tea can augment his immune system’s ability to fight of infection and keep inflammation at bay. My Welsh Terrier, Cardiff, takes it every day with great success as part of his regimen to keep immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) in remission.

Good luck,
Dr. Mahaney

PHOTO: jude

Dr. Mahaney

Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA has a thriving veterinary practice in Los Angeles. His clients respond favorably to his combination of Eastern and Western medicine, including acupuncture. In addition to making house calls, Mahaney makes himself available via social media outlets such as his blog and Twitter. He is dog dad to i Love Dogs canine ambassador Cardiff.

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October 6, 2011 By : Category : ASK A VET Senior Dogs Skin Problems Vet Popular Topics Tags:
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