Every day veterinarians are faced with a variety of surgical challenges. While some surgeries are scheduled in advance, others must be done on an emergency basis to treat a sick or injured pet. The four most common procedures we perform are mass removals, dental surgery, abdominal exploratories, and treatment and repair of an abscess.
Masses can be found almost anywhere on a pet and are seen in various sizes. Removing a mass may be simple or complex. Tumors can occur with the skin, in the ocular (eye) tissue, in nasal (nose and sinus) tissue, in muscle, and within the abdomen to name a few common sites. Both the size and location of the mass being removed will determine the difficulty of the procedure. We frequently recommend a biopsy of a removed mass. A biopsy is performed by having the tissue of the mass inspected under a microscope by a pathologist to determine if the tumor is benign (not harmful) or malignant (cancerous).
It is common for pets to need dental surgery. The most frequent dental surgical procedures we perform include extractions of teeth due to abscess or fracture, and gum surgery. The most common gum surgery we perform is to remove excess gum tissue and is called excising gingival hyperplasia. We also remove oral tumors and repair fractured jaws. Just as with other tumors, we frequently recommend biopsy of oral tumors.
Due to the fact that many dogs and cats tend to ingest foreign objects such as string, toys, tennis balls, and rocks, along with numerous other things, we perform many abdominal exploratories. Some of these ingested objects end in the stomach, but many travel into the small intestine where they become lodged. This not only causes the pet discomfort, it can also result in death of the intestine followed by death of the pet if not diagnosed and the foreign object extracted. Many foreign objects can puncture the intestinal wall causing infection if not removed. The object does not necessarily have to be sharp. Because of the twists and turns of the intestines, an object as simple as a string can “saw” the intestinal wall while being moved around one of the intestines’ curves. Most pets that have surgery surgery for foreign body removal will spend a couple of days hospitalized before going home.
Outdoor cats who tussle with each other commonly end up with “cat fight abscesses.” Because of the type of bacteria on cats’ teeth and the type of puncture wound their teeth cause, abscesses easily form under the skin of the recipient of a bite. These wounds and abscesses may be hidden by the cat’s fur, and are not always apparent since cats will lick to try to keep the surface of the wound and their fur clean. A few days after being wounded, the abscess ruptures. Depending on the extent of the abscess, the area may be cleaned and treated, or surgery may be needed to repair the wound. When surgical repair is performed, sometimes a drain will be placed. The drain is actually flexible rubber tubing along which any puss or excretions from the wound will travel and be removed from the cat’s body. When a drain is used, it must be removed after several days.
Safety and Pain Management
The anesthetics we use are very safe. Our doctors and technicians will always run bloodwork to make sure the pet’s liver, kidney, and other internal organs are capable of processing the anesthetics. All of our surgery patients also have an IV catheter inserted so that they may be given fluids to maintain hydration during surgery and to provide a means for administering IV medications that may be needed.
To prepare for surgery, most pets receive an injection that makes them calm and sleepy. Then a catheter is placed and the pet is given another injection that puts them in a sleeping state. This sleep state is usually maintained through the use of anesthetic gases. Pain relievers are also used prior to, during, and after surgery in order to keep the pet comfortable. Many of the surgeries we perform are completed in the morning, and by late afternoon the pet is awake and alert enough to go home that same day. When the surgery is more extensive the pet will stay in our hospital until it is safe for the pet to go home and be cared for by the pet parent.