Administering Anesthesia To Your Older Dog
Up until the late fifties and early sixties, the successful outcome of many surgical procedures for older dogs was somewhat uncertain. This was due in small part to the surgical techniques and materials employed at the time, but primarily to the types of anesthetics that were available then. Those anesthetics were often unpredictable, sometimes produced longer periods of anesthesia than were needed for the operation, and they had to be detoxified and eliminated largely by the liver and kidneys, organs which usually are already under stress in the older dog.
These problems sometimes prompted many conscientious veterinarians to advise clients that “your dog is too old to anesthetize or be operated on.” What they were really saying was that the risk from surgery and anesthesia was at least as great, or greater than the risk from whatever was wrong with the dog.
Today that situation has radically changed. Anesthetizing a seriously ill older dog is still in the high-risk category, but the chances of a successful outcome are tremendously improved. The new types of anesthetics give excellent control over the depth and time of anesthesia and allow for rapid recovery to a normal, conscious state. Many of the newer and much safer injectable anesthetics can be used alone for general anesthesia or, in combination with some gas anesthetics, to provide “balanced anesthesia.” And certainly, the ready availability of artificial respirators that can breathe for your dog has both increased the overall safety of anesthesia as well as permitted surgery within the chest cavity for some types of cardiac and lung disorders.
No dog should be considered “too old” for surgery or anesthesia if otherwise in reasonable health. The aging kidneys and liver still must detoxify much of the anesthetic, aging lungs can make inhalant anesthetics more difficult to control, and heart disease does increase the overall danger. There still is a risk, but it is a calculated risk, usually weighted on the side of success.
In today’s modern veterinary hospitals and clinics, surgery is done under conditions similar to those found in human hospitals. Everything is done to keep the surgical area sterile, which includes doctors scrubbing before surgery and wearing a sterile cap, mask, and gown. All instruments, surgical drapes, and any piece of equipment that will come in contact with the patient is sterilized. The surgery is performed in a separate operating room, which is used only for sterile surgery. While each operating room will vary in the variety of equipment available, it will have whatever is needed for the particular operation being done. If your veterinarian’s hospital is not equipped to perform a particular type of surgery, he will refer you to a colleague who does have the necessary equipment, or he may do the surgery himself but in his colleague’s hostages You Can Expect As Your Dog Gets Older
Your dog’s body takes a beating throughout his life. Muscles are pulled, joints stressed, and organs scarred by infection. Cell structure breaks down, decreasing the efficacy of organs and tissues. All of these traumas cause abnormal cell development, which in turn creates tumors and arthritic conditions. On the outside, he can appear as healthy and active as any younger dog, but inside his organs are not functioning as efficiently as when he was younger.
For example, if the kidneys begin to deteriorate, they can continue to function with only 40 percent of the tubules (the part of the kidney that breaks down nutrients from urea) working. Your aging dog will continue feeling fine and behaving normally. However, this can take a quick turn for the worse if a kidney disease continues to deteriorate. This can happen slowly or what seems like overnight. Until this happens, the only difference in your dog will be his need to urinate more often. Otherwise, there is no sign of a problem. As he ages, you need to ensure his complete health by adjusting his diet, exercise, and by keeping a close watch on his behavior. In fact, you’ll notice many problems first through behavioral changes before his body shows outward signs.
Changes in appetite, a lack of desire to move about, or overall grouchiness are usually symptoms of a deeper problem. Your dog’s muscles will remain strong, provided the exercises. The more he does as a youngster, the more he can do as an oldster. You must keep in mind, however, that he cannot tell you he doesn’t want to go those extra miles with you. All he wants is to be with you and please you, regardless of how he feels. His muscles may still be strong at this point, but his internal workings are no longer operating in prime condition.
Your dog can still remain physically healthy with a little less exercise – maybe two or three miles instead of five or maybe you can do the run on the softer ground instead of hard concrete. The musculoskeletal system will usually exhibit arthritic changes as he turns into a senior dog. Arthritis is formed through changes in the joint bones, a reduction of cartilage, and a thickening of the synovial fluid between the joints. Often, inflammation can cause more irritation and lameness. Not only will the arthritic changes cause pain in the joints, but they will also cause atrophy in the muscles because your dog will not want to move around. The muscles begin to get loose and hang off the bones. This is most obvious along the spine, chest, and hind legs.
As the muscles atrophy, the skin will appear looser or baggy. Overall, your dog becomes a different dog as his senior years take over. He moves more slowly, picks at his meals, and may bump into things that he can’t see. However, the biggest change will be in his behavior. As he aged, he may not only slow down, he will also become less excitable in general. He will still greet you with a wagging tail, but not jump on you or perform aerial leaps when you come home. When going out, he’ll walk to the door and wait patiently as you search for his leash – no more racing in circles, barking excitedly.