Adrenalectomy in Dogs

Adrenalectomy in Dogs
July 14, 2019

Adrenalectomies are surgical procedures which remove the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located in front of the kidney – and that’s just one of the reasons why removal of the adrenal glands can be difficult. There are several reasons why Adrenalectomy procedures for dogs are only carried out by specialist surgeons. Not every vet is trained or willing to carry out the procedure. As you’ll need to find an expert surgeon who works in a specialist setting, this can drive up the price of the Adrenalectomy.

The most common reasons why Adrenalectomy operations are carried out are tumours affecting the adrenal gland. If tumours are present, Adrenalectomy surgery is an incredibly high-risk procedure, as there is a high chance of blood clots forming in the 24 hours which follow on from the surgery. However, on the other hands, dogs who do survive the surgery and the recovery time which follows do go on to live happy and healthy lives.

How Adrenalectomy is Carried Out in Dogs


 A full general anaesthetic is required before an Adrenalectomy can be performed. Only facilities which have the capability to supply equipment to monitor blood gasses and pressures, ECGs and other vital signs will be suitable for Adrenalectomy surgeries. The facility will also need to accommodate for the intensive care which will be required following on from the surgery.

If an Adrenalectomy is required, it is highly likely that your dog will need an extensive duration of medical therapy for a number of weeks before the surgery. This can ensure that the risk of complications occurring during the surgery is minimised. As mentioned before, the greatest risk is for your dog to develop a life-threatening clot. Vets much always make sure that the blood pressure is stable enough to carry out the procedure.

Your dog won’t be able to eat on the day of the Adrenalectomy, they should be fasting to ensure that the operation runs as smooth as possible. Prior to the anaesthetic, your dog will be injected with painkillers. After the anaesthetic has taken effect, the surgeon will make an incision across the midline of the dog’s stomach. However, some may choose an alternative incision location on the right high flank – it depends on which method your dog’s surgeon feels most comfortable with.

After the incision has been made, the surgeon will move the liver and gut aside to access the adrenal gland which is located deep in the abdomen. Before the adrenal gland can be removed, the blood supply will be restricted to prevent the loss of blood during the surgery. Once the gland is removed, the surgeon will close the incision site and your dog will need to be transferred to an intensive care unit. Dogs will usually require close monitoring for 24 hours however his can depend on the health of your dog and how the surgery went.

Success Rates of Adrenalectomy Procedures in Dogs


 While Adrenalectomy is a relatively straight forward and effective procedure when it comes to removing tumorous adrenal glands, this doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be complications following on from the surgery.

The outcome of the Adrenalectomy procedure is largely dependent upon how invasive your dog’s tumour was in the first place. We don’t like to be the bearers of bad news, but many dogs don’t get to leave the hospital following on from the surgery especially if the tumour was incredibly invasive. Success rates can also be hindered if the tumours are malignant and have spread to different locations on the body.

Furthermore, the rate of complications can vary depending on the type, size, and nature of the tumour. The main cause of death following on from Adrenalectomy procedures blood clots which will affect the lungs. In the long-term, the Adrenalectomy can result in other complications such as pancreatitis, pneumonia, kidney failure and heart irregularities.

Alternatives to Adrenalectomy Procedures in Dogs

If you or your vet decide that an Adrenalectomy procedure is not viable or appropriate, they may consider other options to help to ease the suffering of your pet. In some cases, vets can control the clinical signs of the condition affecting your dog’s adrenal glands with a course of medication. However, it is worth noting that this form of treatment is palliative, meaning there will be no chance of recovery, only relief from the symptomatic pain for your dog. As medical adrenal treatment is largely unsatisfactory, most vets will be extremely hesitant to carry out the practice.

Adrenalectomy Recovery Process for Dogs


 The 24 hours which follow on from the Adrenalectomy surgery is when your dog will be at the greatest risk. This is due to the rapid changes seen in the hormone levels and the formation of a blood clot. Both of these factors can be catastrophic and potentially fatal as they cause problems which are almost impossible to get under control.

Generally, dogs that make it through the first 24 hours after surgery are able to go home – however, this will only be possible if cancer hasn’t advanced before the surgery has taken place. Your vet will give you follow-up care instructions for when you take your dog home, it is essential that you follow these to the letter. You will need to make sure that your dog cannot lick the surgical wound by placing their head in a cone and allow them to rest and avoid any form of stress. If your household is a noisy one, keep it to a minimum and allow your dog to get the appropriate amount of rest following on from the procedure.

After the operation, their medication which they will have been given ahead of the surgery will need to be reduced and eventually stopped. However, all changes made to medication will be dependent on their blood pressure.

The staples or sutures which closed the surgical site will need to be removed ten to fourteen days after the op.