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Administering Anesthesia To Your Older Dog...


Up until the late fifties and early sixties, the successful outcome of numerous surgical procedures for older dogs was rather unsure.

This was due in small part to the surgical techniques and materials employed at the time, but principally to the types of anesthetics that were obtainable at that time.

Those anesthetics were many times uncertain, now and again produced longer periods of anesthesia than were required for the operation, and they had to be detoxified and eliminated mainly by the liver and kidneys, organs which most often are already under stress in the older dog.


These problems occasionally prompted lots of conscientious veterinarians to guide clients that "your dog is too old to anesthetize or be operated on." What they were indeed saying was that the danger from surgery and anesthesia was at least as great, or greater, than the risk from whatever was wrong with the dog.


Today that position has radically changed. Anesthetizing a severely ill older dog is still in the high-risk category, but the likelihood of a successful result are tremendously improved. The new types of anesthetics deliver superb control over the depth and time of anesthesia and allow for swift recovery to a normal, conscious state.

Many of the newer and much safer injectable anesthetics can be used alone for general anesthesia or, in conjunction with several gas anesthetics, to give "balanced anesthesia." And definitely, the ready availability of artificial respirators which can breathe for your dog has both increased the overall safeness 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 have to detoxify much of the anesthetic, aging lungs can make inhalant anesthetics more difficult to control, and heart disease does increase the total danger. There still is risk, but it is a calculated risk, generally weighted on the side of triumph.

In today's up to date veterinary hospitals and clinics, surgery is carried out under conditions comparable to those set up in human hospitals. Everything is done to keep the surgical area sterile, which includes doctors scrubbing before surgery and wearing sterile cap, mask, and gown.

All instruments, surgical drapes, and any piece of apparatus that will come in contact with the patient is sterilized. The surgery is performed in a separate operating room, which is used exclusively for sterile surgery. While each operating room will vary in the assortment of apparatus available, it will have whatever is essential for the specific operation being under taken.

If your veterinarian's hospital is not equipped to carry out a specific sort of surgery, he will refer you to a colleague who does possess the required equipment, or he may do the surgery himself but in his colleague's hospital.

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