To operate or not on older dog

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To operate or not on older dog

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Old 08-23-2017, 10:27 AM
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To operate or not on older dog

Need some advice with a difficult turning point in the health of my dog who was a constant companion to both me and my son...seeing him through most of his childhood.
My 14yo beagle started bleeding profusely from the ear about a month ago. A trip to the ER stopped the blood with epinepherin. The vet said it was a growth occluding the ear canal and sent us home with synotic ear drops. No biopsy performed or requested.
I have consistently cleaned the area around the ear flap on a daily basis several times a day with warm water. There is daily foul-smelling exudate with blood. Last weekend it seemed to be worse (especially the smell- anaerobes possibly?) and he wouldn't let me clean it. So, I took him into the vet yesterday and they said that they could surgically remove what they could of the growth for $800-$1000. With culture/sensitivity and the visit yesterday add another $200.
I have until 5pm today to make a final decision about the surgery, but I am worried that this won't buy my guy much more time and risk facing the decision for euthanasia right there on the operating table if the growth is inoperable or too extensive.
He still takes evening walks and eats well. Urinates & defecates without a problem, but his energy is very low & requires lift into the car & steps.
Guess I'm thinking I don't want to be one of those owners that is hanging on desperately trying to avert the inevitable outcome.

If he was a few years younger there would be no question, but 14 yrs lifespan for a beagle --seems like operation or no operation the inevitable is right around the corner. thoughts?
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Old 08-23-2017, 12:31 PM
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When I considered surgery for my elderly dog, (once he got over the age of 13), some things I took into account was.

1. Overall health. He was an extremely healthy dog up until a month before he turned 16. That month before he turned 16 was when he had his stroke and his health started to decline. I wanted to make sure he was healthy enough to withstand the anesthesia and the recovery from surgery.

2. Would putting him under anesthesia improve his quality of life. Some surgeries like fatty tumor removal can be safely not done and the dog's quality of life does not suffer. Other's like teeth cleaning or in your boys case removal of the growth in his ear, need to be done to keep the dog comfortable.

3. Just how likely is it that the problem will keep recurring. That one would be for something like cancer, tumor, cyst, etc. I'd likely not have surgery done if I were to have the growth removed, put my dog through a month or more in order to have had him recover, only to have the growth back 6 months down the road and him right where he was to start with or worse. If removing the growth gave him a year or two free of trouble then I'd have the surgery done.

4. Recovery time, this one is mainly for orthopedic surgery when recovery can be long and drawn out. I just wouldn't have that type of surgery done on say a 15 year old dog, put him through months of the pain of recovery at the end of his life.
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Old 08-23-2017, 01:41 PM
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Thank you, Rain. All very good points to consider. The vet wouldn't venture to give a longevity prognosis and I understand why. Until they go into the canal & find out what they're dealing with they don't know the extent of it. So, no idea how much time surgery would buy us if any at all.
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Old 08-23-2017, 01:58 PM
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Thank you, Rain. All very good points to consider. The vet wouldn't venture to give a longevity prognosis and I understand why. Until they go into the canal & find out what they're dealing with they don't know the extent of it. So, no idea how much time surgery would buy us if any at all.

You're welcome.

Best advice I can give is asking for the pre-op blood work to make sure he's healthy overall. Then asking about the recovery time from the surgery, and how much the surgery will improve the quality of his life once he's recovered. If recovery time is only a couple weeks, if it buys him some good quality time it might be worth it.
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Old 08-23-2017, 02:22 PM
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I second Rains advice, its all about recovery and quality of life. If your Vet says he has a 70% chance of recovery from the surgery, and his quality of life improves, then IMO the surgery is the way to go. If all the surgery can do is prolong his low quality of life, so he can suffer longer, you have that very difficult decision to make.
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Old 08-23-2017, 02:53 PM
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But how can vet know the rate of recovery if they don't know the extent to which the problem exists?
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Old 08-23-2017, 03:32 PM
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But how can vet know the rate of recovery if they don't know the extent to which the problem exists?
I would hope to think that your vet has dealt with this type of issue in the past. If he hasn't much - or any - experience with it, you might want a second opinion. Or your vet could call a colleague who has more of this type of experience/knowledge and see what he or she thinks concerning the particulars of your dog.
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Old 08-23-2017, 04:32 PM
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The thing is, your Vet can not give you any kind of guarantee, but he or she can based on experience give you %'s of success vs %'s of failure based on similar cases. Any surgery carries risk, its always about risk vs benefit, whether its medicine being administered by your Vet for your dog, or your MD for you.
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Old 08-23-2017, 06:53 PM
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Before going in your vet should have a general idea of what he's going to be doing. If he's simply removing a growth, that's growing on soft tissue, the recovery shouldn't be all that long. Now if he's doing something like operating to remove a limb due to bone cancer, then the recovery will be longer.

I've had multiple surgeries to remove thyroid cancer, and 2 to remove adrenal tumors. For all the surgeries except one, the first week was horrible, the second week was bad, by the third week I was starting to feel better, and by the 4th week I was nearly back to normal.

From what I can tell with dogs they tend to heal a bit faster then us humans, or at least ignore the pain better. Think about a dog being spayed and how fast they bounce back! A human getting a hysterectomy bounces back a heck of a lot slower LOL.
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Old 08-23-2017, 07:47 PM
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Vet didn't give percentages. Only said he'd have a pretty good chance. He estimated his recovery to be 2weeks for ear canal excision. If we're lucky the tumor alone is removed. If it has spread to brain or bone nearby he said euthanasia on the operating table could be an option. I would prefer to choose euthanasia from home if it came to that.
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