What Is A Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon?
A board certified veterinary surgeon is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional surgical training. A veterinary surgeon can offer special assistance in the following kinds of cases:
- Traumatic injury and emergencies (such as fractures, skin wounds and lacerations, correction of gastric dilatation-volvulus, and exploratory (abdominal/thoracic) surgery
- Orthopedic surgeries (such as surgery for hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament surgeries (TTA and lateral suture), and luxating patellas).
- Soft tissue surgeries (such as tumor/cancer removal, intestinal surgery, liver surgery, bladder surgery, airway surgery and correction of congenital defects).
- Neurological surgeries (such as herniated discs and spinal injuries).
While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive surgical training in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet. Your veterinary surgeon will work closely with your general practitioner veterinarian, as well as other board certified specialists in internal medicine, critical care, veterinary oncology, veterinary neurology, and veterinary radiology.
Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Surgeon?
Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs the additional expertise of a board certified surgeon for certain surgeries. In fact, many general practitioner veterinarians refer all but the most routine of surgeries to specialists. This includes orthopedic and neurology cases, reconstructive surgeries, tumor removals, etc.
Board certified veterinary surgeons also are often affiliated with referral hospitals where they may have access to specialized diagnostic or surgical equipment, the latest and safest anesthesia monitoring equipment, physical therapy or rehabilitation capabilities, and other critical care services that a general practitioner may not have access to. All of these specialized services may be necessary for the optimal care and recovery of your pet.
You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet to a veterinary surgeon is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of care for his or her problem.
What Kinds of Problems Require the Expertise of a Veterinary Surgeon?
Board certified veterinary surgeons can repair complex fractures, treat hip dysplasia, and use advanced techniques to stabilize knees affected by torn ligaments (ruptured cruciate ligaments). They can also remove cancerous growths, manage extensive or non-healing wounds, and perform reconstructive surgery, such as grafting skin over large injuries. Veterinary surgeons can perform intricate surgeries in the chest or abdomen, such as repairing heart defects in dogs. Spinal injuries and herniated discs are problems that are also commonly referred to board certified surgeons. Veterinary surgery is also expanding into minimally invasive surgery, such as arthroscopy, thorascopy, and laparoscopy.
Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?
In many, if not most, surgical cases your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care, especially if your pet is continuing to cope with a disease or chronic condition. It depends on your pet's particular disease and health problem, however. Typically your general practitioner veterinarian will oversee many aspects of your pet's pre-op and post-op care, just as in human medicine. Recovery periods are often prolonged in many surgical cases, particularly in orthopedic surgery, and it is very important to follow your veterinary team's recommendations concerning at-home recovery guidelines for your pet, follow up care and appointments, as well as any rehabilitation that has been prescribed.
Did You Know?
Just as in humans, a pet's recovery from veterinary surgery can go more smoothly or even result in a better outcome with the addition of rehabilitation options. Many veterinary referral hospitals offer rehabilitation services, such as water therapy, physical therapy, and massage therapy, as an adjunct to surgical care.
If you think that your pet may be a candidate for veterinary surgery, talk to your general practitioner veterinarian, or find a board certified veterinary surgeon near you today.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What Additional Training Does A Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon Have?
Veterinarians who want to become board certified in small animal surgery must seek additional, intensive training to become a specialist and earn this prestigious credentialing. Specialty status is granted by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). A veterinarian who has received this specialty status will list the initials, 'DACVS,' after his or her DVM degree. Or, the veterinarian may indicate that he or she is a 'Diplomate' of the ACVS. The word 'Diplomate' typically means the specialist has achieved the following:
• Obtained a degree in veterinary medicine from a university certified by the American Veterinary Medical Association following completion of undergraduate requirements.
• Completed a one year general internship, plus an additional three to four years of advanced training in a residency at a veterinary teaching hospital where the veterinarian will have trained with some of the best surgeons in the field and obtained hands on experience. Surgery residents also have to complete a case log in soft tissue, orthopedic, and neurologic surgery.
• Completed the credentialing application process established by the ACVS, including publication of research results.
• Passed a rigorous examination.
After completing and passing all of these rigorous requirements, the veterinarian is then recognized by his or her peers as a board certified specialist in veterinary surgery. When your pet needs the care of a veterinary surgeon, years of additional training and education will be focused on helping him or her to recover from injury or illness and enjoy the highest quality of life possible.
- Will My Pet Be in Pain?
Surgery is a major medical procedure and is often associated with pain in both animals and humans. You can be assured that your veterinary team'"your pet's general practitioner veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, and any other veterinary specialists involved in your pet's care'"will prescribe pain management options to help keep your pet as comfortable as possible before, during, and after surgery. If you are concerned about pain management for your pet, simply ask your veterinarian.
- Elbow Dysplasia
The term elbow dysplasia refers to a degenerative disease of the elbow joint. There are several different potential causes for the problem, that may occur singly or at the same time in the same animal. Elbow dysplasia occurs primarily in medium to large breed dogs. Dogs with elbow dysplasia typically show signs of lameness before reaching one year of age, although in some cases lameness may not become apparent until middle age.
The treatment for this disease can involve surgical and/or medical options. If you think your dog is experiencing problems in his or her elbow joint, be sure to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.
- Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian
Many owners are increasingly seeking specialized care for their pets, just as they do with other family members, in order to secure the very best outcome. If your pet is facing surgery, here are some questions you may wish to ask your general practitioner veterinarian:
• How often have you performed this type of surgery?
• Does the surgery require any special equipment?
• Is it available?
• Does my pet's surgery require a specialist?
• What should I expect the outcome of the surgery to be?
• What follow up care is necessary?
Source: The American College of Veterinary Surgeons
- What are Common Referral Veterinary Surgeries?
- Tumor removal
- Limb amputation
- Cruciate ligament repair (TTA and other traditional methods)
- Spinal problems/herniated discs
- Gastric dilatation/volvulus; laparoscopic gastropexy to prevent gastric dilatation/volvulus
- Wound management and skin reconstruction
- Congenital defects
- Urinary stones
- Cancer Surgeries
Cancer does appear to be becoming more common in both dogs and cats, most likely because they are simply living longer. However, early detection and specialized care are leading to increased survival and cure rates in almost all the types of cancers that afflict pets. From surgery to chemotherapy to radiation therapy, veterinary cancer specialists (link to cancer specialty page) can offer your pet the very latest diagnostic and treatment options and the best chance of survival. With optimal treatment, cancer in many cases simply becomes another manageable chronic disease.
Surgery is one of the most common treatment options for pets with cancer, and can lead to enhanced survival times and better quality of life for many affected pets. Your veterinary surgeon will work closely with your general practitioner or veterinary oncologist to ensure your pet is getting the very best care
- What are the most common Orthopedic Surgeries?
Three orthopedic surgeries that are commonly performed in pets are TTA to stabilize the knee due to a torn cruciate ligament, surgical correction of a luxating patella, and repair of broken bones with pins and plates).
Cruciate ligament disease can occur in both dogs and cats, who usually tear or rupture this ligament while exercising, playing, or simply landing incorrectly after a jump. The ligament will not heal without surgery. Surgery helps to stabilize the pet's knee joint and prevent further wear on the joint and associated structures. An increasingly common surgical technique to correct this situation is called the Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA). Small and large dogs and cats can suffer lameness from dislocating/luxating knee caps (patellas). Surgical correction of the luxating patella helps these pets lead a normal life. While some broken bones will heal with a cast or splint many others need surgery to heal properly. This surgery may involve pins, screws, plates, or external frames.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament Disease
The most common cause of rear limb lameness in dogs is a tear or rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This painful injury allows degenerative changes to occur in the pet's stifle joint (which, despite its location, actually corresponds to the human knee joint). Rupture can occur when the joint is rotated unexpectedly, hyperextended, or when it is hit catastrophically from the side or the front but, most commonly, a torn cruciate ligament is a degenerative disease (breaking down of the ligament over time) in dogs. Certain conformational defects, such as crooked legs, can also lead to a slow degeneration of the joint over time; other dogs suffer degeneration of the ligament without apparent underlying problems.
There is a surgical correction, however, that can help alleviate the problem. Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) is a procedure which puts the animal's knee joint back in proper alignment. During the surgery, the leg bones are cut and adjusted to their proper positions and then stabilized using a metal plate and bone screws. As with any kind of complicated orthopedic surgery, the recovery period is crucial and the animal's activity must be severely limited. Patients must not be allowed to jump, play, run, climb up and down stairs, or do much more than walk quietly on a leash.
- Hip Dysplasia
This is a hereditary, developmental disease that affects the hip joints of dogs. Certain breeds are more likely to be affected than others. Although its occurrence in large and giant breeds is well documented, there is evidence that it may also be present in smaller breed dogs and cats as well.
Poor conformation of the hip and thigh bone structures result in a 'looseness' of this ball and socket joint. This looseness allows the ball part of the joint to move in the socket, instead of remaining stable as it should in a healthy, normal, tight fit. This abnormal movement can create wear and tear in the joint, leading to arthritis. Although signs of the disease do not typically appear until after the dog matures, puppies as young as five to six months can be affected. Hip pain, stiffness, abnormal gait patterns, an
audible 'clicking' sound while walking, and a reluctance to exercise are all possible signs of hip dysplasia.
The disease is usually diagnosed using radiographs, or x-rays. The treatment for this condition is primarily surgical. In small dogs and cats a femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) is often recommended to prevent pain associated with a loose/arthritic hip joint. In large dogs (and less commonly in small dogs and cats) a Total Hip Replacement (THR) can be performed. In THR a dog's diseased hip joints are replaced with prosthetic ones. The goal of both surgeries is to provide your pet with some measure of normal activity and function and to reduce the pain associated with the condition. A very high level of success is reported with these surgeries. However, as with all major procedures, it is very important to follow your veterinary surgeon's recommendations regarding recovery and rehabilitation.
Services Offered in Surgery
- Multimodal analgesia
- Comprehensive peri-operative monitoring
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
- Blood chemistry analyzer
- Coagulation analyzer
- Hematology analyzer
- In-house STAT laboratory
- Oral Surgery
- Diagnosis and management of ear diseases
- Abdominal ultrasonography-abdominocentesis and cystocentesis
- Digital radiography
- Transfusion therapy
- Continuous ECG monitoring and telemetry
- Pulse oximetry and end tidal capnography
- Mechanical ventilation
- Direct blood pressure monitoring
- Central venous pressure monitoring
- Nasal and transtracheal oxygen therapy
- Aggressive analgesia
- Endo or trans-tracheal washing
- Supplemental feeding tube placement & management
- Vascular and airway foreign body removal
- Drain insertions
- Nasojejunal tube placement
- Non-surgical spinal cord disease diagnosis and management
- Neuromuscular disease diagnosis and management
- Cerebrospinal fluid collection and analysis
- Partial and complete parenteral nutrition
- Dietary counseling
- Bone Marrow Aspirate
- Cancer Staging
- Palliative treatment of cancer pain
- Advanced anesthetic monitoring
- Emergency surgery
- Bone and Joint Surgery
- Brain and spinal surgery
- Minimally invasive surgery
- Stem cell therapy
- Reconstructive Surgery
- Hip dysplasia diagnosis and management
- Bone Biopsy
- Tissue biopsies
- Soft tissue surgery
- Ventral slot surgery
- Dorsal laminectomy (cervical and lumbosacral)
- Craniotomy/craniectomy-diagnostic and therapeutic
- Spinal distraction and stabilization
- Elective and emergency caesarean section
- On-site critical whelping monitoring for referrals