DEAR DR. THOMPSON: I have an 11-year-old shepherd/chow mix with a growth protruding from the edge of his upper eyelid. It is about the size of pencil eraser and growing. My vet of many years, who I trust completely, wants to remove this surgically. My main concern is the dog going under anesthesia at his age. Could you please offer any advice, guidance, or questions that I should ask prior to this procedure? He is seen by his veterinarian on a regular basis and is in good health.
ANSWER: The growth you are describing is typically a benign tumor of one of the oil-secreting glands of the eyelid called a sebaceous adenoma. They can grow quite quickly and become infected or scratch the cornea of the eye. Often dogs will have very irritated eyes from the abrasion of these tumors. Surgical removal is straightforward, and I jokingly call it an eyelid lift since the resulting skin is slightly tighter post-operatively. It heals very quickly and once the hair grows back you probably will not be able to tell which eye was operated on.
I understand your concerns about anesthesia and it sounds like you are in capable hands. The newer anesthetics are significantly safer, and the anesthesia monitoring equipment helps detect any changes while your dog is asleep. Simple blood tests prior to anesthesia also help uncover any other issues that may affect how he reacts to the anesthesia.
Concern over anesthesia is the most common question raised for pets this age. This procedure is short and relatively noninvasive, and with some simple pre-operative tests and careful monitoring the procedure should be very safe. Please do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian about any aspect of the procedure. She will gladly walk you through every step and address any of your concerns.
DEAR DR. THOMPSON: How do we stop our 5-month-old Yorkie from digging holes in the yard and flower bed? He also chews on everything he can find in the house and outside, including sticks, stones, leaves, etc. Help! Will he stop some of this behavior after he is neutered?
ANSWER: Puppies have an inquisitive nature that will lead to some of this behavior. But at the level you are describing it is likely the result of pent-up energy and boredom. Terriers, even tiny ones like Yorkies, have a great deal of energy which needs a healthy outlet and focus. People assume that lap dogs do not need walks and constructive play, but without this structure and outlet destructive behavior results.
He is also endangering his health by chewing on sticks and stones. Rocks will break teeth, and if swallowed they may need to be surgically removed. Some of the plants he may dig up can be poisonous if eaten. Sticks can be a choking hazard or the splinters can lodge in the throat and lead to infection or worse.
Every dog needs exercise, structured play, and boundaries. Some of this behavior will pass with age, but unless he is given some direction these behaviors will transition to other problems. Start with exercise. A tired puppy is a happy puppy. Structured play with your dog will help let him know what is appropriate in the backyard and start to develop a sense of boundaries.
Neutering is essential for a number of health and behavioral reasons, but is not the answer to this problem. Ask your veterinarian for help if you are not able to make any headway.
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