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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Senior Dog Rectal Cancer Surgery

Updated: August 30th, 2021


John’s senior dog has a rectal tumor that might be cancer. But John is worried about complications. Should he go ahead with the procedure?

John’s 13-year-old Jack Russell Terrier has been diagnosed with a rectal mass that may or may not be cancer.

His veterinarian recommends surgery, but he is worried about complications…

… especially because his dog is older and has always been a picky eater.

Is his dog too old for surgery?

Dr. Nancy Reese, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D. joins us today on Dog Cancer Answers with some things to consider if you have a senior dog who has an operable tumor. If you haven’t said yes yet, this is a good episode to hear.

“I always say that age is not itself reason enough to avoid surgery,” says Dr. Nancy. “If all the other health parameters are in good shape, the heart’s good, lungs are good, blood work, X-rays, all of that are good, and there’s no definitive signs of metastasis, then an older dog usually can undergo surgery successfully. Jack Russells are pretty hardy dogs.”

“Age is not itself reason enough to avoid surgery.”

– Dr. Nancy Reese

Things to consider include:

  • Overall health of the individual dog
  • Typical breed lifespans
  • Survival rates for the type of cancer (if known)
  • How dogs typically do after that surgery

For an anal tumor, a growing lump can quickly become a quality of life concern. Dr. Nancy commends John’s veterinary team for finding his dog’s tumor so early!

After all… that’s not an area most dogs like having poked and prodded.

Dr. Nancy also recommends having any unusual surgery done by an experienced surgeon who does that type of procedure regularly and asking lots of questions beforehand.

As well as asking how often the surgeon does this particular surgery, ask about success rates.

If lots of dogs get the surgery and 95% do very well, that’s a good sign.

… But if lots of dogs get the surgery and only 5% do well, you might want to think twice.

As for John’s concerns about his JRT’s appetite after surgery, an appetite stimulant can help with that if needed!

There are always things that can go wrong, but with a healthy dog and an experienced surgeon, you’re starting off on the right foot.

You can read the whole transcript on the episode page on the Dog Cancer Answers website.

Here’s the video version of the podcast:

Please subscribe to, rate, and review Dog Cancer Answers in Apple Podcast or on your favorite pod-catcher. It really does help the show!

Paws and wags,

Kate Basedow, LVT

PS: Feel free to share this article or the podcast itself with your veterinarian and their staff.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Gretchen Bickert on September 1, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    I had a 14 ish long haired chihuahua named Charlotte (my tiny dancer ;)) She had a tumor in her liver. It was a space occupying tumor – so .. leave it and she would eventually starve, or take it out. She also had a grade 4 heart murmur, aortic stenosis, gall bladder issues, and cognitive disorder (early stages). What to do?! well.. obviously an individual choice, and unique to each dog! My integrative vet (who is wildly intuitive and the most amazing human!) said .. do it (unheard of for a vet to say that with conviction!) She felt Charlotte was a tough cookie.. stories upon stories about what this tough little one survived.. and that she wanted that thing out so she could continue to live. We consulted with her cardiologist (which I actually was excited about because not only was he a brilliant board certified cardiologist, he was a hottie! lol), and I also consulted with a surgeon, and a board certified radiologist (who had diagnosed the tumor). If you have the means to get expert opinions, then by all means do that! The surgery went very well, and they were able to get the tumor w/ just enough margins (she lost a pretty big chunk of her liver!). Charlotte was a super star and lived for another year and a half. I am very happy that I went through it. She had a super swift recovery, and I actually had to take her off the pain meds early . She ate as soon as we got home, and was back to her normal wackadoodle little self.

    thanks for sharing the article. Age doesn’t always matter. Now.. onto the podcast that was shared. Appreciate all the great posts from Dog Cancer Blog.

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