My Shar Pei has a liver tumour and a blood-clotting problem. My vet has told me surgery is risky, but I am keen to do everything I can. What does it involve and should I put him through it?

James Farrell advises…

It is difficult to know what to do for the best in these situations. Ultimately, you need to decide what you think is best for him and what he will cope with. A vet with advanced expertise in soft-tissue surgery will be needed to perform an operation like this. It is quite possible your vet will arrange a referral to an advanced practitioner or specialist to do this. These vets must demonstrate up-to-date skills and experience in more complex operations and so may be better placed to deal with your dog’s problem. Of course, this will usually mean that the surgery will cost a bit more too, so all these things need to be considered.

Initially, your own vet will suggest further tests, such as X-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests to check if the tumour is elsewhere, as this will influence the outcome and chances of successful surgery. If everything else is clear, then your dog will need to be given some blood products (usually fresh frozen plasma). This will have been donated by another dog previously, but vets can now get these from stores at the Pet Blood Bank. This will provide him with factors to aid in the clotting of his blood to make the surgery less risky.

The vet may use a keyhole technique to look inside the abdomen first, through a very small hole, which won’t bleed so much, to check that the tumour is removable. If so, and he is coping with the anaesthetic and his clotting is under control, then advancement to full surgery (with a big wound) can occur to allow removal of the tumour. The vet will likely use specialised stapling equipment, blood-clotting agents and heat-sealing probes to ensure the remaining liver does not bleed.

The dog’s recovery must then be monitored closely for any signs of bleeding or problems. The operation is risky, but not impossible, and it depends on what you are willing to put him through. If the tumour is a benign one and the operation goes well, he could have many years left and so it is worth considering, but it’s always a personal choice, as you know your dog best.

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