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Should My Senior Dog Have Surgery?

As pet owners we all have to deal with this question: Should I put my old dog through surgery? You're not alone.

should I put my old dog through surgery

Pet parents strive to provide their Fluffy Friends with the best quality of life, especially as they age and face various health challenges.

It's a familiar scenario: your loyal and beloved senior dog is starting to experience health issues that require medical intervention. You would then consider surgery, especially if the veterinarian suggested it. Making the right choice for your ageing canine companion can be complex and emotionally charged.

In this blog post, we'll explore the factors to consider when deciding whether or not surgery is the right course for your senior dog. We'll delve into surgical procedures' potential benefits and risks, the age-related factors to consider, and alternative treatment options.

Armed with this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to make the best decision for your dog's health.

Should I Put My Old Dog Through Surgery

should I put my old dog through surgery


Understanding the unique needs of senior dogs is crucial to making the right decision.

Dogs, like humans, experience changes in their bodies as they age, including reduced organ function, joint stiffness, and decreased immune response.

These factors can complicate surgical procedures and post-operative recovery, making weighing the potential benefits against the risks vital.

While surgery can often be the best solution for certain conditions, such as tumour removal or life-threatening emergency surgery, it’s not always the best choice for every senior dog.

Let's look into the following considerations before deciding on surgery:


1.   Voice Your Concerns:

Factors such as the dog's overall health, the invasiveness of the procedure, and the expected outcomes should all be considered before making a decision.

Consulting with your veterinary surgeon or seeking a second opinion can provide valuable insights into the surgery's feasibility and potential success for your senior dog.

2.   Explore Other Options:

Exploring alternative treatment options that may alleviate or manage your dog's condition without surgery is worth considering.

These include medication, physical therapy, holistic approaches, or lifestyle adjustments catering to your dog's needs.

Look into these alternatives thoroughly and discuss them with your local vet. They may provide a less invasive and equally effective path to improving your dog's quality of life.

3.   Know the Pros and Cons of Surgery for Older Dogs

Ask your veterinarian to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the surgical procedure in question. A thorough discussion will help you decide whether the benefits of surgery exceed the hazards.

Ultimately, deciding to pursue surgery for your senior dog requires careful consideration, weighing the potential benefits against the risks, considering your dog's overall health, and exploring alternative treatments.

It's essential to prioritise your dog's comfort, happiness, and longevity while respecting their unique circumstances and limitations.

Related: Pet First Aid: What You Should Know

Reducing the Risks of Surgery for Old Dogs

should I put my old dog through surgery


An older pet may experience a longer recovery time than a young dog.

However, it doesn‘t mean your furry best friend should not undergo surgery.

The good news is that a lot of senior dogs can recover well from surgery and that we have a strong possibility of considerably raising their quality of life.

Here are some of the ways to reduce the risks of surgery for older pets:


  • Any dog undergoing surgery should have a thorough physical exam before anaesthesia.
  • We may not be aware of underlying health problems in senior dogs. Before starting surgery, it may be necessary to perform a medical examination.


Veterinary professionals would suggest diagnostic tests such as blood tests (including complete blood count and chemistry), X-rays, and ultrasounds of the abdomen or heart.

  • Your veterinarian might advise keeping a closer eye on your pet throughout the procedure. The veterinary team regularly assesses heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body temperature, and other parameters.
  • Your veterinarian may suggest a referral to a board-certified veterinary surgeon for the treatment if they don’t have the monitoring equipment they believe would be ideal for your dog's treatment plan.

Your veterinarian can help you decide whether surgery is the best option for your fluffy companion based on your dog's health history and other relevant information.

Related: How to Cope with Losing A Pet

FAQs About Old Dog Surgery

should I put my old dog through surgery


Is my dog too old for anaesthesia?

Remember that surgery is usually not advised for older pets if it's only for cosmetic reasons.

Prior to receiving general anaesthesia, a complete physical examination and blood work should always be done.

To be safe, getting an ECG and chest and stomach radiographs could be a good idea.

Before anaesthesia and surgery, certain dogs may need to be stabilised.

This may entail correcting blood work irregularities, administering IV fluids, or administering a blood transfusion.



Is surgery painful?

Surgical discomfort shouldn't be disregarded.

Numerous safe medications are available for pain relief before, during, and after surgery.

Depending on the severity of their diseases, dogs are almost certainly already in pain, which will persist or worsen if surgery is not performed. Surgery frequently aims to reduce your pet’s pain.

How to prepare senior pets for surgery and anaesthesia?

These are general guidelines only. We strongly advise following your vet’s instructions before, during, and after pet surgery.

  • The Week Before
    • It might seem a little early to begin planning your dog's surgery one week beforehand. Still, your vet may need to order additional tests before your dog is placed under general anaesthesia.
    • Ask your veterinarian when the right time for new vaccinations is. Depending on your dog's health and medical history, some vets might decide against vaccination before surgery.
    • Also, now is a good time to plan how to get your dog to and from the veterinary clinic where he will undergo surgery. Ensure you have all the comforts in your car that you and your dog might need, like a plastic cone, lint roller, and pet carrier.
    • If your dog routinely gets groomed or bathed, think about doing it a few days before the surgery. You’ll be told to keep the wound dry after his procedure.


  • The Night Before

Every pup will experience the night before surgery differently. Let your veterinarian know about your dog's specific circumstances. If they’re not mentioned in your discharge instructions, ask the following:

    • Can I give my dog his medicine?
    • Can my active dog engage in regular exercise a day prior to surgery?
    • How long should my dog go without eating or drinking? 

    Getting your house ready for your pet's arrival from the veterinary hospital is a good idea.

    Create a quiet place in your home for your beloved pet to ensure his full recovery. You might need to keep your dog away from other pets. Set up his orthopaedic pillow, dog food, and other necessities in his space.

    To further reduce the chance of infection, you might also need to wash your dog's anti-anxiety pet bed.


    • The Morning Of
      • Dog owners should ensure their pets cannot access food or drink on the morning of surgery.
      • Feeding your canine before surgery could lead to aspiration in your dog during anaesthesia, which could be fatal.
      • Many vets will ask you to leave your dog at their clinic when they open in the morning.
      • Arrive on time so they can perform further tests and catheter placement before the surgery in the case it’s needed.
      • Ensure the front desk has your most recent phone number to contact you about your much-beloved pet.

    • Post Operative Care
      • You'll receive comprehensive instructions from your vet on caring for your dog following surgery.
      • If there’s an incision, your dog might need to wear an E-collar. He might also need a few drugs to help with discomfort and lower the chance of secondary infections.
      • Avoid removing the plastic cone so your fur baby can avoid potential problems arising from secondary infections.
      • Your dog's normal activities might be limited. With active breeds, this can be challenging. However, enough rest is crucial to speed up the healing process.
      • You won't be allowed to bathe your dog or get the incision wet for the first couple of weeks (or once the sutures come out).

    Remember that your pooch will recover faster by following your vet's advice and with the proper care.

    Keep an eye out for any indications of discomfort or strange behaviour.

    Related: What To Do if Your Dog Has Anxiety

    should I put my old dog through surgery


    Deciding whether to pursue surgery for your senior dog is a very personal decision that requires careful consideration and consultation with your veterinarian. When it comes to old dogs, it's important to acknowledge their unique needs and vulnerabilities.

    Old age can bring about changes in their bodies that may affect the success of surgical procedures and their ability to recover. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly understand your dog's overall health, the invasiveness of the surgery, and the expected outcomes.

    While surgery can be the optimal solution for certain conditions, it is not always the best option for every senior dog. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not your old dog should have surgery.

    Regardless of the decision you make, what remains constant is the love and dedication you have for your senior dog.

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