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We recently rescued a senior lady, the sweetest dog ever. Her age is a guesstimate -- she's somewhere between 9 and 11 years old, likely closer to 9 or 10 according to my vet. She was represented to us as already spayed, but we have now confirmed with a vet exam that she is in heat and has never been spayed. I am leaning toward not having this done, but would appreciate some advice.

Kelly came to us in bad shape -- she had been neglected most of her life she was underweight, missing fur from flea allergies, and was dealing with skin issues from yeast overgrowth. She is doing well now, we've had her about a month and she looks so much better. Her bloodwork came back fine except for a low serum albumin level which the vet attributed to stress and malnutrition. We will be repeating it in a month or two.

My dilemma is trying to determine if the risk of the spay surgery at her age, and given her not so great health is worth taking. On the one hand there is the risk of anesthesia, a more complicated surgery on an older intact dog, and a longer and more painful recovery with risk of spay incontinence. On the other hand is the risk of pyometra if I don't get her spayed, and that is the one consideration that is giving me pause.

She is not at risk of getting loose and I can deal with the heat cycles. My vet advised that she would do the surgery but that if I decided against it that would not be bad decision either. Whatever I do has risks, it depends on what risks I am willing to take.

What would you do -- is it worth the risk to spay a dog around 10 years old?
Thanks for any advice --
 

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I avoid surgeries on seniors. Personally, if I knew I could keep her from breeding then I would not. What is the chance of pyometra vs surgical complications?

I most certainly would not do it until she was 100%.
 

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First of all, god bless you for bringing a senior dog home. Kelly is very lucky and I'm sure karma :) will pay you back tenfold with the joy and love she will bring to your life.

I'm sure you'll get a lot of advice from the dog experts here. My advice comes from my heart and not my head, I wouldn't do it simply because I wouldn't want to put that sweet girl through any more trauma. Listen to the experts and use your head but trust your heart.
 

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I avoid surgeries on seniors. Personally, if I knew I could keep her from breeding then I would not. What is the chance of pyometra vs surgical complications?

I most certainly would not do it until she was 100%.
Michelle is one of the dog experts I was referring to :) She thinks with her head and heart.
 

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lol OH I'm no expert. Just OCD and anal on details.
 

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I wouldn't either. Unless she is completely healthy or if pyometra shows up. In saying that I think it will be pretty important to know and watch for all signs or symptoms.
 

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I'm in agreement with the others, IF you decide to spay her, I would wait until she's 100% healthy or the pyo shows up if it ever does.

I've had surgeries on senior dogs for various issues, but only when everything else was good with no issues..

I like that your vet wasn't pushing you one way or the other:)
 

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Thanks for all the advice. You have confirmed my gut feeling that spaying Kelly is not worth the risk.Thats what my heart and my head is telling me so that's what I'm going to do. Keeping my fingers crossed that pyometra doesn't show up.
 

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I would be concerned enough about the pyometra to talk to my vet further once the new girl (congrats and thanks for adopting a senior!) is healthier. I would be looking at her overall health, strength, blood work, clotting profiles, activity, and basically be doing a cost/benefit analysis (where cost is not just $). I would consider the spay for another reason - mammary tumors.

Dogs are different - some 8 year olds look and act older than a 12 year old, and vice versa, and that plays a part in a decision.

My vets are very confident in their monitoring during surgery and do surgeries on senior pets all the time. Three of my seniors this year have had surgeries - 2 cracked teeth were removed, and one episioplasty. Not as invasive as a spay, but the teeth surgeries were lengthy! Every time I'm there some old dog is being brought out to go home after different things, so that is another thing I'd be talking to the vet about - how many of these old dog surgeries do you do, what extra things do you do with them, what about spays, etc, etc.

With GSDs you have to look at how they bleed, and how they react to different meds in the MDR1 category before any surgery.

With my seniors (and think of all the dogs who are terribly sick when brought in for GI surgeries - that make it) I ask to talk about anesthesia, and we typically use one in particular.

I'd also be looking at stats on incidence in pyometra (more recent studies as well as the moldy oldy) and mammary tumors in order to help make this decision.
 

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I would probably spay her when she was in good shape again....the risk of pyo is too high for me personally....I have spayed older females (8-9) routinely after breeding. I have seen too many dogs with pyo brought into clinics, and when they are ill, the risk is much much higher for the surgery...

Just 5 or 6 weeks ago, I got a call from a lady I know that her nearly 11 year was discharging some smelly, pus fluid....and she was not wanting to go to the ER vet. I literally yelled at her to get the dog to the vet (usually the way it ends up when she calls and she argues when she does not like the answers to her questions!) and not wait 3 days to avoid the ER charges. The dog was spayed the next morning. She is fine now, and the woman recently adopted another GSD that I had been networking - at least this one is already spayed!

Lee
 

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I would be concerned enough about the pyometra to talk to my vet further once the new girl (congrats and thanks for adopting a senior!) is healthier. I would be looking at her overall health, strength, blood work, clotting profiles, activity, and basically be doing a cost/benefit analysis (where cost is not just $). I would consider the spay for another reason - mammary tumors.
Me too.

It can be fairly sudden, VERY EXPENSIVE, and ends in a spay + tons more $$$ and sickness for the dog. Plus my dogs always have issues on weekends/holidays/nights so that delays the immediate help needed.
 

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I have a hard, hard, almost impossible time justifying surgery for an older dog. But I also respect the opinions of those here who detail good experiences and reasons for a spay surgery. For a girl who's had a hard life and is not in the beat of shape, I do lean towards the no.
 

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I have a hard, hard, almost impossible time justifying surgery for an older dog. But I also respect the opinions of those here who detail good experiences and reasons for a spay surgery. For a girl who's had a hard life and is not in the beat of shape, I do lean towards the no.
She would have to be healthy for the surgery. Focus on that as a priority. The others are right as far as expenses and dangers of pyometra. A friend of mine had a 11 yr old chihuahua that got sick. I told her I thought it was pyometra but the first vet said no. The dog continued to decline, I urged her to go for a second opinion at a different vet. That get couldn't believe the dog was still alive and did the surgery immediately, which was quite expensive. The dog did fine and recovered nicely. The flip side is that you don't feel she is healthy enough for surgery but if an emergency surgery is required in the near future, she isn't going to be healthy anyway.
 

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Our rescue has spayed several senior "golden girls" -- we always wait until seniors are healthy for surgery. We also do senior bloodwork before the surgery -- no guessing about whether they are healthy.

All our seniors have come through the surgery without any complications (the nice thing about seniors is they are easy to keep quiet after the surgery -- unlike an adolescent). I think the key is to have a good vet you can trust help make the call as to when she's safe for surgery.

I would also note there are a range of "routine practices" used for spaying (from low cost/high volume spay/neuter clinics to full-cost, top-of-the-line care), and these differences could conceivably affect outcomes.

For example, sometimes the low-cost spay/neuter clinics don't require pre-op bloodwork -- for a senior I would not want to skip it. They also sometimes don't do IV catheters during surgery (because costs more, and they are trying to keep costs low).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, high-end vet clinics sometimes have have a circulating warm water-bed used during surgery and also recovery to help maintain an optimal body temperature under anesthesia and reduce post-op pain (that would be fantastic for a senior, if you have access). Not all clinics require the dog to stay overnight post-surgery, but for a senior, I would prefer it as long as they have vet staff there all night.

Another difference is pain medication. I've heard a few vets associated with shelter spays and low-cost clinics assert that they do not want dogs on pain meds post-spay because they tempt dogs to over-exert and possibly injury the surgery site. Other vets are adamant that dogs who are spayed should receive a few days worth of pain meds. If your senior is already on pain meds for arthritis (e.g., Rimadyl) and they want to use different ones, you may have to worry about the need for a "wash period" to clear the system of the one to make ready for the other -- this is all part of your conversation to have with the vet.
 
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