After the surgery, your pet will stay in the hospital until the chest tube is removed, he/she is breathing well and their pain can be managed with oral medications. Exercise is restricted for 10–14 days to allow the surgery site to heal. Some dogs may wear a bandage for 1–2 weeks after the surgery, or a collar to prevent licking or chewing at the incision. Depending on the type of tumor, which is based on microscopic examination of the removed tissue, chemotherapy may be recommended. Also, your veterinarian may suggest x-raying the chest in future visits to check for spread or recurrence of the tumor.
Anesthesia can be risky in any older pet, but the risk increases in pets whose airways are diseased. Many pets must be placed on ventilators during the surgery to keep them well oxygenated. Bleeding or air leakage can be a potential problem if the blood vessels or bronchus do not seal properly. Pain medications are necessary for several days after the surgery; animals that are in pain will not expand their lungs well and could suffer from low oxygen. Despite these potential complications, most dogs and cats survive the surgery.
Because the surgery site is directly behind the front leg, some dogs may have trouble walking (particularly up and down steps) for up to 2 weeks after surgery, and many will have swelling along the incision line for several days after the surgery.
Survival after lung lobectomy for a primary lung lobe tumor averages one year or more in many cases. Survival is longer when the tumor is smaller or located on the periphery of the lung lobe (15–17.5 months), when the lymph nodes are small (20 months) and when the tumor can be entirely removed. Survival also depends on the tumor type and is longer in dogs with adenocarcinomas that are completely removed (19 months) than dogs with squamous cell carcinomas (8 months). The best prognosis is in pets that have small diameter, well differentiated papillary carcinomas that are diagnosed before clinical signs occur and that have no evidence of lymph node spread. Cats are much more likely to have spread of their primary lung tumors, so their prognosis may not be as good as dogs.
Since breathing second hand smoke can increase the risk of lung tumors, the best prevention available is for animal owners to stop smoking. Even when owners smoke outside, the smoke is brought in on their hair and clothing.