Senior Dogs and Surgery

Senior pets aren’t all that much different from human senior citizens, except that their lifespans are generally shorter than what we humans experience.

While conducting research on the topic of senior dogs and the risks surgery and anesthesia pose I was shocked to learn what veterinarians hear all too often from pet parents of our elderly four-legged friends in need of surgery – at his/her age is surgery or the costs associated with surgery really worth it?

Seriously? Just because Fido or Fiona has reached his/her golden years doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the best possible quality of life, does it?

Dr, Patty Khuly, a veterinarian and contributing writer for <> addressed the matter of age discrimination in pets in the online article from 2013 titled How Old is Too Old When Treating a Pet found at

During her years in practice Khuly has many times seen pet owners make life-and-death decisions about their pets based solely on the age of the animal.

“‘She’s 10 now, so it makes sense she might get a lump on her spleen, right? Sounds like it’s time to put her down.’ Or how about this one…

‘He’s only got a couple of years left, so I don’t think I’ll be putting him through that kind of knee surgery,'” writes Khuly.

In the online Pet Health Network article Anesthesia and Surgery: Four Senior Dog Success Stories Veterianrian and Contributing Writer Phil Zeltzman offers his views on the topic.

“As I always say, ‘age is not a disease.’ What matters is the overall health of the patient, not the age. There are 14-year-old dogs who are healthier than 8-year-olds. When properly done, the risk of anesthesia is not significantly greater in seniors,” Zeltzman said.

Veterinarians treat each pet as a patient – regardless of age — and try to minimize the risks of anesthesia. That’s not to say that their age isn’t factored into how surgery is approached or prepared for, he said.

“Keep in mind, when a senior dog requires anesthesia, it’s not for the fun of it. It is for a good medical reason, such as cleaning dirty teeth, or fixing a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), or removing a tumor” Zeltzman said. “In any of these situations, the reason we recommend anesthesia and surgery is to improve the dog’s quality of life.”

To read the full story and see the case study of four senior dogs go to

Always consult your pet’s veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about his or her health.

However, if you have questions or concerns regarding Fido’s or Fiona’s behavioral issues including such things as canine obedience, dog aggression, food aggression, potty training and more reach out to your local Boston, Lowell, Springfield or Worcester, MA Off Leash K9 Training professional. He or she has the expertise to address and resolve any canine behavior challenges you and your pup are facing.

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