Q. My cousin has a 2-year-old Doberman Pinscher who was healthy until he had a tumor removed from his paw. A few days after the surgery, the dog began vomiting after he ate and was also drinking a lot of water. After a few tests, they determined that he either had kidney disease or his kidneys were just failing. The vet said the anesthesia used for the surgery could have caused the problem. I don’t understand how a 120-pound Doberman can go from perfectly healthy to almost dead in a few days. Can this happen or do you think maybe the vet could have made a mistake during surgery? Not that we would want to blame him—he has been their vet for many years— but something’s just not right.
A. It would be upsetting and concerning to find out your 2-year-old dog was in kidney failure soon after having an anesthetic procedure. This is a tough situation, and the key questions that come to mind are whether your cousin’s Doberman had an existing kidney condition or if it could have been caused by anesthesia.
The first part of this question can be answered with pre-anesthetic testing, which all veterinarians should offer and require prior to administering general anesthesia. Sometimes this recommendation is bypassed with younger dogs, but in a case like this, the outcome can be tragic. If a dog’s kidneys are already compromised (if, for instance, he was born with a genetic defect), an anesthetic episode can push the kidneys into failure. Blood testing before the procedure allows the vet to take steps to protect the kidneys.
On the other hand, if a dog has properly functioning kidneys, and blood tests confirm they’re working well, kidney failure may occur in response to lapses in anesthetic monitoring, such as not giving fluids during surgery, not monitoring blood pressure, or keeping the anesthetic gas at too high a level, causing low blood pressure.
The kidneys are extremely sensitive to low blood pressure, and extended periods of time with low blood pressure can cause permanent damage.
In your cousin’s situation, she should confirm whether the kidneys were tested prior to surgery. She may want to ask if there were any complications during the procedure. At this point, there may not be many treatment options to restore the Doberman’s kidney function other than hospitalization and intravenous fluids, which may only provide temporary improvement.
Other dog owners should always ask about pre-anesthetic testing prior to general anesthesia, and confirm that the blood pressure will be carefully monitored during surgery, and that intravenous fluids will be given to help maintain good pressures.