VCA Veterinary Referral Associates

If your pet is in need of surgery, contact the specialized vets and animal surgeons of VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg.

VCA Veterinary Referral Associates Surgical Specialists

The search for answers to your pet’s health problems can be challenging. If you have been referred to the VCA Veterinary Referral Associates surgical team, you and your regular veterinarian may have already been searching for those answers for some time.
We’re here to help. With a diverse group of specialists, state-of-the art diagnostic tools and highly trained support staff all available on-site, we can give you the information you need to make a compassionate, informed decision on your special friends’ care.

Individualized Care

At VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, we believe that no solution is one size fits all. Our experienced surgeons will listen to your concerns, thoroughly evaluate your pet and offer care that is tailored for this beloved family member’s special needs.

With the surgical staff of VCA Veterinary Referral Associates as part of your pet’s medical team, you will have a vast array of experience and knowledge at your disposal. Having access to such a diverse group of specialists guarantees that you will have the widest range of options to meet the needs of both you and your pet. Rest assured that you will understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how it will help.

Whether your dog has a mystery lameness or your cat has an ear infection that just won’t go away, we can guide you on the road to a solution. We’ll let you know when surgery might not be the best answer for your pet and we will share with you all the alternatives, highlighting their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision.

Specialized Experience

Many owners are increasingly seeking specialized care for their pets, just as they do with any of their family members, in order to secure the very best outcome. What exactly does a veterinary specialist bring to the table?

VCA Veterinary Referral Associate’s specialists have deep and intimate knowledge of their chosen fields of practice and see countless cases over the course of a career. They are at the forefront of veterinary innovation and bring a wealth of knowledge to your pets’ diagnostic and surgical challenges.

Specialty hospitals also have surgical, diagnostic and treatment options and equipment that may not be available at your referring veterinary hospital and these options can have a profound impact on your pet’s treatment and its outcome.

At VCA Veterinary Referral Associates we don’t just have surgical specialists. We also have a wide variety of specialists who focus on other areas of veterinary medicine. So if your furry friend turns out to need a neurologist instead of a surgical specialist we can take care of that too.

If your pet is facing surgery and you think a specialist may be a good choice, here are some questions you may wish to ask your referring veterinarian:

  1. How often have you performed this type of surgery?
  2. Does the surgery require any special equipment?
  3. Is the equipment available?
  4. Does my pet’s surgery require a specialist?
  5. What should I expect the outcome of the surgery to be?
  6. What follow up care is necessary?

Source: The American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Meet Our Surgeons

Dr. Eileen Snakard and Dr. Chris Gauthier are the VCA Veterinary Referral Associates’ surgeons. Our doctors are highly respected and well known throughout the veterinary community for their wealth of knowledge and high degree of expertise in their chosen areas of specialty..

Dr. Snakard focuses on all aspects of veterinary surgery with special interests on minimally invasive thoracic and abdominal surgery and plastic and reconstructive soft tissue and orthopedic surgery. For more information about Dr. Snakard, please visit her bio page.


How VCA VRA Works

As a referral hospital, VCA Veterinary Referral Associates only takes referral or emergency cases.

In many, if not most, surgical cases your regular veterinarian will remain a partner in your pet’s care, especially if your pet is continuing to cope with a disease or chronic condition. Typically, your general practitioner 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 surgical cases, particularly in orthopedic surgery. It is very important to follow your veterinary team’s recommendations concerning at-home recovery guidelines, follow up care and appointments, as well as any rehabilitation that has been prescribed.

Animal Rehabilitation

Just as in human medicine, a pet’s recovery from veterinary surgery can go more smoothly or result in a better outcome when animal rehabilitation techniques are utilized. VCA Veterinary Referral Associates offers a full range of physical rehabilitation services at our facility, including hydrotherapy, ultrasound and neuromuscular electrical stimulation to improve the recovery of patients with both acute and chronic conditions. Ask us how physical rehabilitation can help your pet.

Client Education Materials

Surgical Care Sheet: If your pet is having surgery at VCA Veterinary Referral Associates and you’d like more detailed information on what to expect pre- and post-op, take a look at our Surgical Care Sheet.

Some of the surgeries that are performed by our surgical team include:

  • Orthopedic Surgeries (including, but not limited to)
  • Fracture Repair
  • Cruciate Repair
  • Onocological Surgeries
  • Rhinoscopy (nose)
  • Throat Surgery
  • Otoscopy (ears)
  • Nasal obstructions
  • Tumor and Lump Removal
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Laparascopy (abdomen)
  • Stents
  • Skin reconstruction
  • Emergency Surgery
  • Foreign Body Removal
  • C-Section
  • Cystotomy (bladder)
  • Wound Repair

For more information on how VCA Veterinary Referral Associates can help you and your pet, call us at 301-926-3300 or you may contact us via e-mail.

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.

What are Common Referral Veterinary Surgeries?

• Tumor removal

• Limb amputation

• Cruciate ligament repair (TPLO's and other traditional methods)

• Hip replacement

• Surgical repair of elbow dysplasia

• Spinal problems/herniated discs

• Gastric dilatation/volvulus

• Wound management and skin reconstruction

• Congenital defects

• Urinary obstructions

• 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 triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO), total hip replacement (THR), and cruciate ligament repair (TPLO).

In the TPO procedure, the bones of the pelvis are cut apart and rotated to more correct positions. In THR procedures, a dog's diseased hip joints are replaced with prosthetic ones. TPO's and THR's are two commonly used surgical techniques for the treatment of canine hip dysplasia (CHD), an inherited and potentially painful disease that affects the hip joints of millions of dogs. 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 Plateau Leveling Osteotomy'"or TPLO.

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). Just as in people, this is a delicate joint, prone to traumatic injury, in which the 'kneecap' is held in place on top of the tibia by two cruciate ligaments. Rupture can occur when the joint is rotated unexpectedly, hyperextended, or when it is hit catastrophically from the side or the front. Certain conformational defects, such as crooked legs, can also lead to a slow degeneration of the joint over time.

There is a surgical correction, however, that can help alleviate the problem. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, or TPLO, is a procedure which puts the animal's knee joint back in proper alignment. During the surgery, the leg bones are cut and rotated 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.

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.

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 one type of procedure, the Triple Pelvic Osteotomy, or TPO, the bones of the pelvis are cut apart and rotated to more correct positions. In Total Hip Replacement (THR) procedures, 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.

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

Services Offered in Surgery

Veterinarians in Surgery


General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:


See all VCA Animal Hospitals >


Emergency Care

Your emergency needs can be met right here at our hospital.
VCA Veterinarian Referral Associates provides 24 hour emergency veterinary care, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Emergency veterinarians, veterinary technicians and/or veterinary assistants are on staff 24 hours a day.

Please call us at 301-926-3300. We are located at 500 Perry Parkway. Gaithersburg, MD 20877.

We provide the highest standard in veterinary emergency and critical care services. We are trained and equipped to perform a variety of emergency surgeries and procedures. We provide the highest standards of pain management. Emergency internal medicine consultations, including full diagnostics, are available.

Please call or come in immediately if you feel your pet is having an emergency or needs after-hours care.