Prepare for unexpected vet bills
The lymph nodes are glands within the dog's body that have a number of functions, chief amongst which is assisting the immune system in tackling viral and bacterial infections and removing them from the body. However, on occasion, the lymph nodes can become compromised by various health problems and cease to function correctly. In some cases, they can even become dangerous to the continued health of the animal. Because of this, the vet may choose to remove the entire gland in a procedure that is sometimes referred to as a 'resection'. It should be noted that a resection is a major procedure and as such is usually only used if it is absolutely necessary.
Immediately prior to the surgery, the vet will often use an ultrasound scan to reassess the location of the lymph node in order to plan the operation. They will then shave a patch of skin on the dog where the incision will be made (dependent on where the node is located) and use antiseptic to clean the site before placing the dog under general anesthesia. The surgeon will then make the incision into the dog's skin with a scalpel and make a pathway towards the lymph node, being careful to properly separate the gland from the surrounding organs, blood vessels and tissues. Because lymph nodes usually appear in clusters, the vet may have decided to remove the entire group if the underlying condition is serious enough, meaning that additional time will be needed to separate them from the surrounding tissues. The surgeon will then be able to remove the node from the body and suture the wound shut. In some cases, they may opt to leave behind a surgical 'drain' in order to prevent a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the remaining space whilst the dog heals.
The lymph node resection is an extremely effective operation in terms of tackling the immediate symptoms of the condition the dog is suffering from, though additional treatment may be needed in order to fully resolve the issue. Although the removal is very effective, some owners may be reticent to expose their dog to such a radical procedure, and may instead look to pursue alternative methods. Antibiotics are one of the main ways in which infections and cysts are treated, though if they prove ineffective, then removal may become a necessity. Cancers, meanwhile, are usually treated with either chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of both with varying levels of effectiveness. In some cases, chemotherapy will be used in the wake of the lymph node removal in order to kill any cancerous cells that may have escaped into the body.
Following the operation, the dog will need to have its activity levels restricted for a few weeks in order to prevent it from re-opening its surgical wound. It may also require an extensive regimen of antibiotics and painkillers depending on the depth of the incision. Owners will have to administer these drugs several times each day in order to cut down on the chances of infection and to stop the dog from experiencing undue pain. In the majority of cases, the dog will be fully healed within the space of four weeks, though this period may be longer for older animals. The vet will also most likely want to schedule a couple of follow-up appointments to check on the progress of the healing and to administer any further treatment that may be needed, as well as remove the surgical drain.
The price of a lymph node resection can vary greatly depending on the exact location within the body of the targeted gland. Nodes that lie deeper within the torso will typically cost far more to remove than ones in the limbs due to the added amount of time and level of complexity involved in such an operation. Thus, owners can expect to pay between $300 and $700, with the price possibly increasing even further due to factors such as locality and the age of the animal. Alternative treatments, on the other hand, can cost far more. Radiotherapy sessions can cost over $500, whilst a full course of chemotherapy can run closer to $1,000.
Whilst a lymph node resection is one of the most decisive ways in which to deal with a problem in an isolated part of the lymphatic system, the procedure does carry with it a degree of risk that may give some owners pause for thought. The first problem that some owners may find off-putting is the requirement for the animal to be placed under general anesthetic. Owners of older dogs may be reluctant to allow this as in rare cases, such anesthesia can cause respiratory failure. However, younger dogs should cope just fine with the procedure. The second common source of worry is the question of whether the removal of the lymph node will negatively impact the performance of the immune system. Fortunately, the removal of just one node or node cluster will have a negligible effect on the dog's ability to fight illness and infection, as the rest of the lymphatic system will be able to pick up the slack.
Unfortunately, most of the cancers that so often necessitate the removal of a lymph node are almost impossible to predict, owing to the fact that they are hereditary and therefore undetectable without knowledge of the dog's lineage. However, problems such as bacterial infections are easily avoidable by making sure that the dog has a sanitary living area and enjoys regular baths and checks for injuries. Additionally, making sure that the dog has a good-quality diet will go a long way towards preventing poor nutrition, which can prompt the dog to attempt to eat foreign objects that could result in infection or contain carcinogens.
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