2007 CASE - AN OLD
DOG WITH AURAL
HAEMATOMA NEEDS HELP
Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
First written: 3 Oct 2007
15 July, 2010
Be Kind To Pets
getting to be a litigious society. So, it is
safer for a vet not to take risk putting a 14-year-old dog
under general anaesthesia to perform a surgery.
This dog was near the end of his life span. He
was a bit on the plump side and would expect to
live not more than 1 or 2 years as he had
outlived his contemporaries.
He needed an operation to remove the blood clots
inside his left ear. But he is past 91 years old
if he is a man.
Barely able to see through his cataract eyes.
Why should a vet risk his reputation for a $150
surgery and anaesthesia?
The second vet gave medical treatment but the
dog was still shaking his head and scratching
his left ear till the blood swelling under the
skin turned bluish-black. As if he was irritated
with a heavy appendage stuck in his left ear.
"Will the dog die on the operating table?" the
owner asked. He and his wife, in their late
fifties did not know what to do. 2 vets had
advised against anaesthesia. This dog had not
long to live as he was very old. But he could
eat and do most things, except see clearly.
"Nobody knows," I said. "I will check his heart
first." His heart was normal, surprisingly.
Usually old canines have some heart problems.
"Do you want to take the risk?" I asked the
couple. It was Hobson's choice for them.
"I will just use gas," I said. "No tranquiliser
injections. This will at least be safer."
The couple was aware of the risk and gave their
The old dog was given anaesthesia by gas mask.
He fought hard wanting to bite.
"Take away the mask when he struggles," I spoke
to the intern I was training. The intern was
gripping hard and trying not to get bitten. The
dog pawed the mask trying to get it off. A
tranquilised dog would be much easier to
But a tranquiliser and a gas anaesthetic might
finish him off. Death is not an option when the
vet undertakes this anaesthesia.
"Put at 8% gas first," I explained to the
intern. I loved this 8% gas vaporiser which may
be hard to find nowadays. It delivers a higher
concentration of gas than the usual 5% vaporiser
The old dog still struggled.
Mark was present and he talked to the dog in his
usual soothing manner as he had this gift of dog
dog relaxed. The gas mask was put onto his face.
His eyeballs rotated downwards as he went into
deep surgical anaesthesia.
"Reduce the gas to 1%" I said. This would
Mark clipped the hairs. It took some time. I
washed the area. Started to incise the swelling
to get the blood out. The dog flinched and
moved. He made noises as if he was crying.
"Increase the gas to 8% for a minute," I said.
The variation of gas based on response is the
best way to minimise risk. The surgery will take
a longer time. The dog would wake up. Increase
the gas and observe the eyelids blinking. Once
there is no eyelid blinking, reduce the gas.
In this way, the dog was operated and recovered
from several weeks of ear pain.
Death is not an option because family members
badmouth and never forgive or go back to the vet
once there is a death of a beloved companion. It is a sad fact of life.
Litigation and complaint to the veterinary
authority takes up so much time. It is foolish
for a vet to undertake this old-dog anaesthesia.
I don't look forward to it too.
Aural haematomas cause ear pain and
discomfort to the dog. Surgery is required to
open up the ear swelling to release the blood.
Otherwise the dog keeps scratching his ear till
it breaks down or shrinks after several weeks.
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All rights reserved. Revised: July 15, 2010
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