Elective Surgery—Is it worth it?
November 08, 2013
As animal lovers, we always want what is best for our pets. From
the most nutritious food to the very best in veterinary care, a lot
goes into making our furry friends happy. For many pet owners,
there comes a time when a difficult decision must be made: Does my
pet really need this surgery? Will they be happier and healthier
because of it? Deciding whether the risks outweigh the
benefits for Fido’s elective surgery can be a trying task, but
having all of the relevant information can make the decision a bit
Unlike surgeries that are necessary to save an animal’s life,
elective surgeries are deemed “not vital” or sometimes merely
cosmetic: they are, in other words, optional. Surgeries that lie
within this gray area leave pet owners with a careful choice to
consider. “A few common elective surgeries are spaying/neutering,
declaw removals, and gastroplexy,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical
Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
The timing of an elective surgery can revolve around several
various factors. Usually, the sooner an orthopedic problem is
corrected, the less long-term damage will occur. If the surgical
repair will be just as effective regardless of the duration of the
issue, the decision of when to go ahead with surgery depends on how
the animal’s quality of life will be affected.
“Your pet should have pre-anesthetic blood work done, be up to
date on vaccines, and should fast for 8-12 hours before surgery,”
said Stickney. Veterinarians highly suggest that pre-anesthetic
blood screening be done before the surgery because although most
surgeries have minimal risk of complications, it isn’t rare to find
an underlying health problem that doesn’t surface until the animal
is already under anesthesia. In the midst of surgery is not the
best time to discover your pet has a detrimental heart problem.
However, if the reason for the elective surgery is merely
cosmetic and doesn’t aim to improve your pet’s quality of life, it
is not usually recommended nor justified. For instance, various
surgeries to “lift and tuck” your pet in order to meet a certain
breed’s standard are becoming increasingly popular among pet
owners. When considering these cosmetic procedures for your pet it
is important to keep in mind the possible pain inflicted and risks
associated merely to achieve a certain look. Putting a pet under
anesthesia can be dangerous even under the best circumstances, and
to do so for cosmetic reasons alone can be considered
Each elective surgery is unique, and speaking with your
veterinarian to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of surgery
beforehand is a necessity. After thoroughly researching
information specific to the surgery for Fido, the ultimate decision
lies with the pet owner. Though there may not be a clear yes or no
answer on whether or not to go ahead with surgery, you will have
more confidence knowing that you did the best you could to improve
the quality of life for your pet.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for
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