My dog has had a heart murmur and now needs to be spayed - I am worried about anesthesia.

Question: 

My 14 year old Bichon Frise was not spayed as a young dog because of a heart murmur and concerns over anesthesia. Now that she is an older girl her seasons are becoming problematic in terms of becoming more frequent and longer. Her veterinarian recommends having her now spayed due to the risk of pyometra, a uterine infection that is considered a serious and life threatening condition. The heart murmur is no longer detected but a recent x-ray showed that she has a slightly enlarged heart. She is an active older dog that appears healthy. I am very concerned about anesthesia and her heart.

Answer: 

Thank you for your question. The decision to have your pet undergo anesthesia is never an easy one as there is always some risk with anesthesia, regardless if your pet is 4 months or 14 years old. As veterinarians we always take every precaution to make it as safe as possible for every patient and understanding as much about her cardiovascular health as possible helps us to make the best decisions with regards to anesthetic risk. I do agree with your veterinarian that there is an increased risk for the development of pyometra in older unsprayed female dogs. Regrettably there is no reliable way to predict whether this will occur. The best way to determine if your pet has any cardiovascular disease that could increase her risk for anesthesia would be to see a cardiology specialist for an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). A cardiologist would be able to review the radiographs that were taken and with advanced non-invasive diagnostics determine if the structure of the heart, blood flow, and heart rhythm is normal. Perhaps you could discuss referral to a specialist with your family veterinarian. I hope this was helpful. Best of luck with your girl.