PreAnesthesia Laboratory Testing: It’s Not Just For People Anymore

“That preanesthesia laboratory testing is just for people. You don’t need to spend money on that before your dog has surgery.”

That was the “advice” one of our clients got from a pet-owning friend when we discovered that her dog, Sweetie, had a
mass in the mammary glands and needed surgery.

Sweetie had surgery today to determine whether she has mammary cancer.

So, we sat down and looked at the matter logically. “Suppose Sweetie has liver disease,” I began. “Not bad enough to make her jaundiced, or to lose weight, but bad enough to make anesthesia be unsafe. Do you want to find out when she’s on the surgery table, crashing, or do you want to know before anesthesia is begun? Knowing before surgery allows us to address it, mitigate it, or even resolve it before surgery.”

“Your friend’s approach is what I call, ‘If she dies, she dies.’ To take that attitude is to say she doesn’t matter to you, and I know that isn’t true of your feelings about Sweetie.”

One may also substitute kidney disease, anemia, thrombocytopenia or a number of other physical ailments for the “liver disease” discussion we had. In any of those cases, the surgical suite is not the place for surprises.

Her friend also said it was unnecessary to have a chest radiograph prior to surgery to determine whether cancer had already spread to the lungs. The friend then quoted mistaken statistics on the likelihood of mammary growths being cancerous.

Again, we looked at the question logically. “Suppose we’re both wrong, and the incidence of mammary cancer in dogs is only,say, one percent of mammary growths. If your dog has cancer in the lungs, liver or other organ, meaning surgical removal of the primary tumor isn’t going to help her, do you want to see her undergo unnecessary surgery?” I continued.

“Of course not,” our client answered. “I see the reasoning is clear.”

We performed the surgery today, but won’t know the results of the histopathology for a week or so. We are prayerfully hoping for the best, as Sweetie had not been spayed yet, and the occurrence of non-cancerous lesions in the mammary glands is much higher in that circumstance.  So, in addition to biopsy, Sweetie had an ovariohysterectomy (spay) surgery at the same time.

We will let you know the outcome.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.


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