General anesthetic might be too risky for an old retriever

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 12-year-old golden retriever. She has numerous bumps on her body, but this is common in goldens. I was going to have them removed last year.

The vet was going to start with her bottom half, then work his way up to her neck; he would remove four cysts. If she showed no signs of distress during this procedure, he was going to take a growth off of her inner eyelid.

Her blood work was fine before the scheduled surgery, and one of the cysts he aspirated didn’t show anything. I canceled the day before because I thought these cysts weren’t bothering her, and I was nervous about having her under anesthesia.

One year after the canceled surgery, one of the cysts burst, and I took care of it myself. It seemed to heal well, but then it filled up again after two weeks and exploded again.

This time, I took her to the vet. He cleaned it out and gave her antibiotics. He said it didn’t show any infection under the microscope.

This cyst keeps filling up and draining, and when it drains, there is an open hole. I don’t know how much longer to let this keep filling up. I’m afraid she’ll get an infection. Now it’s draining blood, where previously it was kind of a brown cheesy substance.

Should I take the chance of having her put under anesthesia at this age? Is there anything else we can do for her?

P.L., the District

DF: Older dogs, and especially those of certain breeds such as yours, are prone to develop usually benign cysts or tumors in hair follicles and sebaceous glands in the skin.

These are best left alone until they become significantly enlarged, get abraded and develop secondary infection or ulcerate and burst.

Your old dog could be at risk under a general anesthetic and may do fine given a mild sedative and local anesthetic around the open cyst. Discuss this option with the veterinarian who would be doing the surgery.

AFTER SURGERY, WHAT?

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 9-year-old English bulldog mix has been struggling with some kind of bowel disorder for the past 18 months.

She has been on numerous cycles of antibiotics and dewormers. She has been given vitamin B12 injections over an extended time. She has had numerous blood tests, stool testing and other testing.

We have tried prescription, raw, grain-free, wet and dry food. We’ve tried every possible food I could find or was recommended/prescribed. Her issue does not seem to be a food allergy.

The problem seemed to develop around the time we began feeding her a raw diet, although I fed the same food to my other two dogs without issue.

While on the antibiotic and dewormer cycles, her stool is mostly solid. But within a week of being off the meds, she is back to pure liquid stool. The veterinarians want to do an endoscopic biopsy before they will proceed with any specific treatment tailored to inflammatory bowel disease.

I’ve spent about $2,000 in testing and vet care, but we’re still right where we started.

D.P., St. Louis

DF: This is a distressing condition for your poor dog and a constant worry for you. Inflammatory and irritable bowel conditions have increased in incidence in dogs in recent years.

After the costly proposed biopsy is done, ask the veterinarians: Then what?

You make no mention of giving your dog bacteria-rich supplements such as yogurt, kefir and probiotics, or providing good fiber such as inulin (not insulin!), psyllium husks or canned pumpkin.

Make sure to keep all soy and grain out of her diet. Some dogs do not do well on a wholly raw-food diet. A basic white fish and potato diet helps many food-intolerant dogs.

Try potentially beneficial supplements such as aloe vera oral juice, licorice, marshmallow herb, glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, montmorillonite clay, calcium aluminosilicate and digestive enzymes from papaya, for example. Discuss those with your veterinarian.

You can suggest a fecal enema infusion from a healthy dog donor living with her to help repopulate a healthier gut flora. For details, visit my Web site, www.drfoxvet.com.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2013 United Feature Syndicate

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