The Skill and Competence of Advanced Surgical Training

No one ever hopes their pet will require surgery, but a situation may arise that requires surgical intervention. The outcome of veterinary surgery is impacted by the knowledge, experience, and commitment of the surgical team.

Veterinary surgeons are dedicated to providing the very best in surgical care. They also act as a resource for your primary veterinarian by providing consultations on difficult or unusual cases. With their advanced training, these specialists offer expertise that ensures the best possible outcome for the animal and animal owner.

During a consultation for veterinary surgery, diagnosis and treatment options are discussed and recommended based on what is best for the patient and their family.

What is a Veterinary Surgeon?

Like most health care fields, the veterinary profession has become multi-tiered. Veterinarians may now specialize in various disciplines including surgery, internal medicine, radiology, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, and oncology.

If your pet develops a problem or injury requiring advanced care and procedures, your primary veterinarian or emergency room veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary surgeon for the following:


Patients are often referred to VSCNL for a variety of orthopedic problems such as:

  • lameness due to rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in the stifle (knee) joint, elbow dysplasia, or hip dysplasia
  • trauma causing fractures and joint injuries

Our critical-care and surgical facilities enable us to optimize the management of these challenging cases. Further investigation may include digital radiography, computerized tomography (CT scanning), and arthroscopy – a technique in which a small camera is inserted into a joint. Orthopedic surgery requires extreme aseptic techniques in order to minimize the possibility of post-operative infection. Our operating rooms are equipped and managed to the highest of standards.

With advanced orthopedic instrumentation, our board-certified surgeons perform both internal and external fracture fixation, arthroscopic surgery, correction of limb deformities by a variety of techniques including limb lengthening, and joint fusions (arthrodesis).

Soft Tissue

Our board-certified surgeon offers a range of soft tissue surgical procedures such as:

  • Ear/Nose/Throat: Total ear canal ablation (TECA) and bulla osteotomy, brachycephalic airway syndrome, laryngeal paralysis, and tracheal collapse
  • Urogenital: Congenital/acquired urinary incontinence, prostatic disease, and bladder stone/mass removal
  • Oncological: Tumours (cancers) including mast cell, sarcomas, and oral
  • Gastrointestinal: Subtotal colectomy, colorectal, gastrointestinal biopsies, and mass/foreign body removal
  • Wound Management/Reconstruction: Local/distant skin flaps and extensive wound management
  • Liver/Gallbladder: Portosystemic shunts (abnormal blood vessels by-passing the liver) and mass removal
  • Cardiothoracic: Congenital cardiac defects, pericardiectomy, lung lobectomy, thymectomy, pyothorax, and chylothorax
  • Endocrine Surgery: Thyroidectomy and adrenalectomy
  • Hernia/Rupture Surgery: Perineal and diaphragmatic ruptures and pericardioperitoneal diaphragmatic herniation
  • Abdominal surgeries, if appropriate, may be treated with a minimally invasive approach.


Board-certified surgeons are extensively trained in neurosurgical techniques. With advanced diagnostic and surgical facilities, our specialist provides a comprehensive service for pets with acute and chronic spinal cord injuries and/or spinal pain. Our 24-hour emergency service ensures urgent cases are seen on very short notice.

Patients with spinal problems undergo a detailed neurological assessment. While reviewing recommended treatment options with owners, the outlook and aftercare must be considered. Not every spinal case requires surgery and conservative management is considered, if appropriate.

Common conditions treated at VSCNL include ruptured discs in the neck and/or back, and spinal fractures and dislocations and/or fractures. The aim of most surgical procedures is either to alleviate pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord and spinal nerves, or to stabilize affected vertebrae. Occasionally, both procedures are recommended. Other spinal conditions that may be managed with surgery include spinal neoplasia, spinal deformities, instabilities, and cysts.


Our multi-disciplinary team of onsite board-certified specialists and emergency veterinarians, and offsite oncologist specialists, provides comprehensive care to patients with, or suspension of, cancer or cancer-associated diseases. Their experience and skill enable diagnosis and treatment options to many cancers such as:

  • mast cell tumours,
  • soft tissue sarcomas,
  • oral tumours,
  • thoracic tumours (i.e, lung, chest)
  • abdomen tumors (liver, spleen, kidney, intestine)

Prompt investigation and timing of diagnostic results can impact treatment options. Our board-certified specialists offer advanced diagnostics and treatment options. Our emergency veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians provide patients with the intensive monitoring and treatment required 24/7.

At any stage, improving the patient’s quality of life is the overall goal. With precision and skill, our specialists will make a strategic diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to the patient, disease, and owner. Such plans may involve:

  • a minimal invasive procedure to gain access to different structures for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes
  • removal of the cancer with a surgical approach utilizing wide margins
  • decrease of the cancer with a surgical approach to enhance the response to other therapeutic options
  • a palliative care approach which may include surgery and/or therapy.

Minimally Invasive

Minimally invasive surgery covers a wide range of techniques that have evolved to treat diseases that were previously untreatable or to treat diseases in a way that is much less invasive than traditional approaches. The majority of these techniques use a combination of fluoroscopy (moving x-rays) and endoscopy (flexible or rigid cameras) to access an area of the body and provide treatment or collect samples. Our board-certified surgeons are experienced in minimally invasive procedures.

Some of our minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy
  • Thoracoscopic pericardiectomy
  • Laparoscopic-assisted cystotomy
  • Laparoscopic liver biopsy
  • Laparoscopic-assisted GI biopsy
  • Laparoscopic ovariectomy
  • Laparoscopic cryptorchidectomy
  • Minimally invasive fracture repair

The range of our minimally invasive procedures is evolving all the time. Should you have any queries about whether a minimally invasive procedure may be appropriate for your pet or client, please contact us for advice.

Why Seek a Veterinary Surgeon?

Your pets deserve the very best care possible. Just as humans are treated by specialists for a variety of medical reasons, animals should be treated by veterinary specialists when advanced care is warranted. Surgery often warrants that care. ACVS Board-Certified Veterinary Surgeons can provide that care.

There are a variety of reasons to seek a veterinary surgeon:

Surgeons have expertise and specialized training

  • Primary veterinarians focus on the day-to-day needs of your animal.  Veterinary surgeons spend years training specifically in surgical procedures.
  • Specialists are more likely to see complicated cases.
  • Specialists can provide you with options and help you determine the best treatment for your animal.

Surgeons are more likely to have access to:

  • Specialty equipment
  • Other veterinary specialists (your surgical team may include board-certified radiologists and anesthesiologists)
  • Technicians who understand the needs of animals undergoing surgery
  • 24-hour monitoring of your pet

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a board-certified Veterinary Surgeon?

In addition to undergraduate studies and four years of veterinary school, board-certified surgeons undergo at least one internship and a 4 – 5 year residency of specialized surgical training. The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) is the certifying organization in North America and you can check a veterinarian’s ACVS status at

Why does my pet require pre-anesthetic testing?

Seemingly healthy pets may have serious organ system problems that could cause surgical or anesthetic complications. Many organ function disorders can only be discovered through blood testing. For further information, read Sedation & Anesthesia.

Can my pet have food before surgery?

Performing surgery on an empty stomach is extremely important to reduce the chance of regurgitation and aspiration of stomach contents during and after anesthesia. Food must be withheld after 8:00 pm the night before a scheduled surgical procedure. A small amount of water can be left down for your pet the night before surgery and picked up first thing in the morning.

Is the anesthesia safe?

Modern anesthetic monitors and drugs reduce the risk involved with surgery, making surgical procedures on pets safer than ever before. For further information, read Sedation & Anesthesia.

Why does my pet require an IV catheter and IV fluids?

Anesthesia can cause low blood pressure and dehydration; therefore, placing an IV catheter and administering IV fluids are required during surgery. For further information, read Sedation & Anesthesia.

Is my pet monitored during surgery?

Your pet’s ECG (heart electrical activity), heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation and end tidal carbon dioxide levels will be closely monitored during surgery by a registered veterinary technician. Your pet’s body temperature will be maintained during and after surgery through the use of warm blankets or heating pads.

Is there any risk involved in my pet’s surgery?

Every surgery, no matter how minor, involves some risk. We take every precaution (i.e., pre-anesthetic blood testing, close monitoring during/after surgery, use of IV fluids) to lessen the risk of complications.

Will my pet experience pain?

While all surgical procedures involve some pain, each patient receives their own personalized pain management plan. For further information, read Pain Management.

Can my pet have other procedures performed while under anesthesia?

Depending upon your pet’s condition, minor procedures (i.e., nail trimming, ear cleaning, small lump removal, dental) may be possible. This must be discussed with and approved by the veterinarian in advance so we can include the procedure on your estimate and plan for additional time to conduct the procedure.

Will my pet’s surgical wound have swelling, bruising, redness, or drainage?

Certain procedures may produce swelling, bruising, redness, and/or drainage. However, even well cared for wounds may become infected. If your pet experiences increasing pain, fever, foul odor, and/or continual seepage of blood/fluid from the incision, contact us immediately.

Does my pet need to finish all of their medications prescribed if they are feeling better?

Follow the medication schedule exactly and give prescribed medications for the length of time indicated!

Why does surgical policies and aftercare instructions differ from other clinics?

The procedure and/or surgical technique performed at another veterinary practice may not be the same. Every veterinarian will have their own methods. We personalize the surgical technique and post-operative care based on each patient’s individual needs. Please call us if you have any questions regarding your pet’s surgical procedure or post-operative care.

Can my pet see my regular veterinarian for progress evaluations?

This may be possible, especially if you do not live in the local area. You will need to discuss the follow-up care options with the surgeon.

May I return to VSCNL if my pet needs a surgeon again?

We are very proud to serve our patients. However, we suggest talking to your primary care veterinarian. We require a referral for separate problems. Once we have the referral, we are happy to see your pet again.

How much will surgery cost?

At the end of your consultation,we will give you a written estimate. Our pricing is very competitive for the type of service provided by our board-certified specialists and emergency service veterinarians, and 24/7 post-operative care in our intensive care unit.

Will I have to restrict my pet’s activity after surgery?

Activity is often restricted for a period of time. Be certain you understand what level of activity (i.e., playing, roughhousing, jumping up and down off furniture, getting in and out of vehicles, or running to the doorbell) is not acceptable before you bring your pet home. Be prepared! This may involve placing a kennel where your pet can see you, mental stimulation with interactive toys such as a kong stuffed with low fat greek yogurt, or sitting on the floor and interacting with them.

Will my pet have a bandage, splint, or cast?

Your pet may require a material dressing (i.e., bandage, splint, or cast) that must remain clean and dry. Wet dressing irritate an incision causing complications. If the dressing gets wet, smells foul, and/or swelling occurs above/below the dressing, contact us immediately.

Why does my pet need a sling?

If required, we will recommend the appropriate style and brand, and demonstrate how to use it. Many are available at local pet stores and online.



Surgical Procedures

Our specialists and veterinarians will review available options with the patient’s family and make recommendations based upon each patient’s individual needs. Our goal is a …

Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO)

Following cranial (or anterior) cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture in the stifle (knee) joint of dogs, the stifle becomes unstable with weight-bearing, allowing the tibia to …

Patellar Luxation

The patella is a small bone at the front of the stifle (knee joint). A luxation, or dislocation, is when the patella slips out of …

Fracture Treatment

Treatment and outlook depends on the fracture type – some are straightforward and others complex, necessitating considerable orthopedic instrumentation, implants, and expertise. With correct planning …

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) inside the stifle (knee) joint stabilizes the stifle during weight-bearing and prevents the tibia from moving forwards relative to the …

Pain Management

Pain can be categorized in many ways, depending on where and why it is occurring. As a general rule, think of how you would feel.  …

CBC/Blood Chemistries

CBC Complete Blood Count (CBC) evaluates hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability, immune system, some bleeding disorders, or other unseen abnormalities. Testing is essential …

Sedation & Anesthesia

Our specialists and veterinarians design the safest sedation/anesthesia plan based upon each patient’s individual needs. Sedation/anesthesia enables our doctors to conduct procedures with minimal anxiety …

Looking for surgical consultation in St. John’s, Newfoundland?

Veterinary surgery consultations can be made by asking your primary care veterinarian about submitting a referral.