Surgical Services

We provide many surgical services at our clinic including routine spay and neuters, dentistries, soft-tissue surgeries, endoscopic procedures, laparoscopic surgeries, and orthopedic surgeries. Occasionally, we refer our patients to specialists (board certified veterinary surgeons) to perform more complex operations. Our ambulatory large animal service can deal with most routine surgical procedures on farm.

Orthopedic Surgery

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Orthopedic surgery refers to bone surgery. There are many different situations where bone surgery may be necessary including broken bones or leg fractures, hip dysplasia, patellar or knee subluxations, anterior cruciate ruptures, disc disease, etc. Most routine orthopedic surgeries can be performed at our clinic. For major complicated orthopedic procedures we refer our patients out to a Board Certified surgeon in Winnipeg or Saskatoon to perform back surgery or other very complex procedures.

Broken legs or limb fractures are the most common orthopedic problem presented at our clinic and usually result from a mishap with an automobile or a bigger animal. They can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the location and type of fracture.

For many dislocation or greenstick fractures a simple splint will provide enough support to allow for proper healing. A cast can be applied to the leg to treat certain fractures; however, many fractures will require surgical intervention.

“Pinning” is a surgical technique whereby a long stainless steel rod is inserted into the middle of the bone. The rod traverses the fractured area and usually cerclage wires are used to create stability and prevent rotation. Often times the pin will be removed once the bones are healed properly.

“Plating” is a surgical technique whereby a flat stainless steel ‘plate’ is attached to the bone using screws on either side of the fracture.

“External fixation” is a technique used to stabilize fractures with a series of pins on the outside of the leg that pass through the skin and into the bone on either side of the fracture.

The method of repair will depend on the location and type of fracture present. We hope you do not have to use our orthopedic services for this purpose, but in the unfortunate event that you do, you can be assured that we are able to proceed with a treatment that will enhance your pet’s healing time and reduce the long term potential problems associated with a fracture or other orthopedic surgery.

There are a lots of knee or stifle problems that need to be corrected surgically. Luxating patellas or popping kneecaps are common in smaller breeds and they do much better with early surgical intervention. Ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments are see more in larger dogs and these can be repaired using a number of different surgical techniques which provide stability and pain relief.

The post-operative nursing care and rehabilitation is often them most important factor determining the success of the orthopedic surgery. Strict rest and constant supervision for 6 -8 weeks after the procedure is extremely imperative. No abnormal stress or strain can be put on the surgical site before the bones are healed together properly.

Cruciate Ligament Surgery

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Rupture

The most common knee injury in the dog is rupture of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL), also referred to as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). This condition is the number one cause of severe hind limb lameness in dogs.

What and where are the cruciate ligaments?
There are two bands of fibrous tissue called the cruciate ligaments in each knee joint. They join the femur and the tibia (the bones above and below the knee joint) together so that the knee works as a hinged joint.

They are called cruciate ligaments because they “cross over” inside the knee joint. One ligament connects from the inside to the outside of the knee joint and the other outside to inside, crossing each other in the middle. Humans have the same anatomical structure of the knee.

How does a cranial cruciate injury occur?
The knee joint is a hinged joint and only moves in one plane, backwards and forwards. Traumatic cruciate damage is caused by a twisting injury to the knee joint. This is most often seen in dogs and athletes when running and suddenly changing direction so that the majority of the animal’s weight is taken on this single joint. This injury usually affects the anterior or cranial (front) ligament. The joint is then unstable and causes extreme pain.

How is it diagnosed?
With traumatic cruciate rupture, the usual history is that the dog was running and suddenly stopped or cried out and was then unable to bear weight on the affected leg. Many pets will “toe touch” and only place a small amount of weight on the leg. During the examination, the veterinarian will try to demonstrate a particular movement called a “drawer sign” which indicates laxity in the knee joint.

Is other joint damage common?
Inside the knee joint are pieces of cartilage called “menisci”. They act as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia. Many times these cartilages are also damaged when the cruciate ligaments rupture. They are usually repaired at the same time as the surgery to address the torn ligaments.

Is an operation always necessary?
An injured Cruciate Ligament can only be corrected with surgery. There are numerous surgical corrections currently being performed:

  • External Capsular Repair (LFS for Lateral Fabellar Suture)
  • Tibial Plateau Leveling Operation (TPLO)
  • Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

What do these surgeries involve?

Extracapsular Repair:
In this surgery the knee joint is opened and inspected. The torn or partly torn cruciate ligament is removed. Any bone spurs of significant size are bitten away with an instrument. If the meniscus is torn, the damaged portion is removed. A large strong suture is passed around the fabella behind the knee and through a hole drilled in the front of the tibia. This suture tightens the joint to prevent the drawer motion, effectively taking over the job of the cruciate ligament. The suture will often loosen or break 2 to 12 months after surgery and the dog’s own healed tissue will hold the knee.

The dog may carry the leg up for a good 2 weeks after surgery but will increase knee use over the next 2 months, eventually returning to normal.  The dog will require 8 weeks of exercise restriction.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) (Osteotomy means cutting the bone)
A fresh approach to the biomechanics of the knee joint is used in this surgery. This surgery addresses the lack of long term success with the extra capsular repair in large dogs. With this surgery, the tibia is cut and rotated in such a way that the natural weight bearing of the dog actually stabilizes the knee joint. The knee joint must still be opened and the damaged meniscus removed. The surgery is complex and involves special training. Many radiographs are necessary to calculate the angle of the osteotomy. It has been shown that the TPLO procedure can still allow rotational instability (pivot shift) in the knee joint, and this may lead to the progression of arthritis as the dog ages.

Most dogs are touching their toes to the ground 10 days after surgery, although that can take up to 5 weeks. 8 weeks of exercise restriction are needed with return to full function in 3 to 4 months.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)
This is the newest procedure and probably the best repair for most dogs. The idea is that when the cruciate ligament is torn, the tibial plateau (top of the tibia) and the patellar ligament should be repositioned at 90 degrees to one another to combat the shear force generated as the dog walks. To make this happen, the tibial tuberosity (front of the tibia where the patellar ligament attaches) is separated and anchored in its new position by use of a titanium cage, fork and plate. A bone graft is used to assist healing.  Rotational instability does not appear to be a problem with the TTA because it results in more control of rotation by the large quadriceps muscle which pulls on the Patellar Tendon.

The TTA has gathered tremendous support over the last 5 years due to the following advantages:

  • Increased joint stability
  • Much faster recovery time, typically 6 weeks with patients usually weight bearing within 24 hours of surgery
  • Decreased complication rate and severity of complications
  • Decreased surgical time and therefore anesthetic risk
  • Return to excellent long-term function while minimizing the progression of degenerative joint disease in the affected joint

Procedures offered at Our Clinic:

Our veterinarians have special training in both the Extracapsular Repair and the Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) surgery.  We utilize our Laser Therapy with each surgery to help speed recovery.

The drawing above shows a view from the front with the muscles removed. It is important to note that the Patellar Tendon, a vital structure in the joint has been removed, so that you can see “behind” it. The Patellar Tendon is a thick, tough band that runs from the Patella (green dot) to the Tibial Tuberosity (red dot).

Surgery description (in detail with diagrams)

See below for a description of the normal joint, the typical joint angle, the corrected angle and the surgical appearance once the knee has been stabilized by the titanium implants.

Normal Joint

The normal joint, viewed from the side, shows the upper bone, the femur and the lower bone, the tibia. The Tibial Plateau is the actual point of contact between the femur and the tibia. In this diagram the Patellar Tendon is clearly visible. It is this structure that must offset the abnormal forces that are created with a rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament

Typical Joint Angle

In the typical joint, the angle formed between the Tibial Plateau and the Patellar Tendon is about 115 degrees when the leg is in a normal standing position.

Corrected Angle

The abnormal motion that occurs in a knee with a torn cruciate ligament is called Tibial Thrust. After the TTA Surgery, the corrected angle is now 90 degrees, which will offset the forces in the knee that tend to make it unstable.

Surgical Appearance

This diagram shows the knee once it has been stabilized with the appropriate Titanium implants. These implants are very lightweight and are designed to stay in permanently.

The above information includes excerpts and pictures from the web sites of Upper Canada Animal Hospital (Dr. Jim Turpel) and Sechelt Animal Hospital (Dr. Lorne Carroll) who both are currently performing the TTA surgery.

Aesculight Laser

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Veterinary laser surgery provides the same benefits to pets that human patients have enjoyed for over thirty years.

When using the surgical laser, only an intense beam of laser light touches the target tissue; resulting in less pain, less bleeding, less infection, less swelling and discomfort after surgery, and the ability to resume normal activities sooner.

The laser can be used instead of a steel scalpel in hundreds of procedures in general surgery, dermatology, ophthalmic surgery and many other specialties. It can be used to make a unique bloodless laser incision, as well as to erase unhealthy tissue (such as tumors) without the excessive loss of blood typical of conventional scalpel based surgery. The laser seals small blood vessels as it cuts – thereby reducing bleeding – which significantly simplifies the surgical procedure and reduces time spent under anesthetic. In addition, laser ablation is so precise that it can selectively remove only a few cells at a time, and the laser beam seals nerve endings so patients are much more comfortable after treatment. The laser beam also kills any bacteria in its path thus reducing the risk of infection, as well as sealing lymphatic vessels resulting in less post-operative swelling.

To learn more about laser surgery click here.

A feline declaw procedure is performed here with the laser. Cats that
required a two night stay in our clinic with pressure bandages on
their feet now stay only one night and are bandage free (and pain free!).
The recovery time and patient comfort is simply incredible.

Pictured here:
Dr. Thrush and an assistant are performing a laser declaw.

Dental and Dental X-rays

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Dental health in dogs and cats is an important, and often overlooked, area of wellness or pet health maintenance. We all know the importance of regular brushing and dental health checkups for ourselves but tend to forget about these needs in our furry companions.

Dental tartar inevitably leads to periodontal disease, which is by far the most common dental problem of companion animals. Periodontal disease is painful, and left untreated, tooth loss is inevitable. An observant pet owner may notice that there is a problem if their pet starts dropping pieces of food while eating, goes over to the food dish as if hungry and then walks away (unfortunately often interpreted as “finicky” appetite), chews food only on one side of the mouth, or loses interest in chewing hard things such as rawhide bones and chew toys. In some cases, pet owners notice nothing at all until their cat’s mouth starts smelling bad or their dog develops a swelling beneath the eye (indicating a tooth root abscess). In its early stages, dental disease can be treated and controlled with minimal pain and loss of teeth. However, once a tooth root becomes abscessed, it will require either a root canal treatment or an extraction.

We are very happy to annouce as of August 2013, we are able to offer digital x-rays to our patients. Patients in for “routine teeth cleaning and examination” will now benefit from a doctor seeing the other 50% of the tooth below the gum line. This allows the doctor to detect serious issues that would be impossible to diagnose without radiographs. Some of these issues are enamel defects, fractures beneath the gum line and bone loss.

Prevention is a far easier and better option for the average pet and owner, with regular toothbrushing, dental checkups, and professional dental cleaning and polishing as indicated.

Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring

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Anesthesia and patient monitoring varies greatly among clinics. When you choose your veterinarian, be sure to question the types of anesthetics used and the protocols used for monitoring anesthesia.

Often the more expensive anesthetics which we commonly use are safer for your pet; however, anesthetics are also chosen for other reasons including their ability to control pain. Our clinic policies dictate that “pain control is not an option”. This means that we will do our best to ensure the comfort of your pet when potentially painful conditions or treatments are encountered in their care.

All of our anesthetized patients have an IV catheter placed prior to anesthesia for quick IV access in the event of an emergency. In many instances intravenous fluids will also be recommended for your pet while it is under anesthetic. The IV fluids help to maintain your pet’s hydration and blood pressure, and improve blood flow to vital organs such as the kidneys during anesthesia.

Our staff closely monitor your pet while it is under anesthesia, as well as during its recovery or while it is “waking up”. We also utilize modern monitoring equipment which can quickly tell us about any changes in the status of your pet while it is under anesthesia.

Our main concern is the health and safety of your pet.

Our Surgivet anesthetic monitors are devices that permit patient monitoring with adjustable alarm limits as well as visible and audible alarm signals. These monitors provide fast, reliable measurements of heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiration rate, oxygen saturation, carbon dioxide level, and electrocardiography.

Spaying

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Spaying your pet has many benefits. The procedure, which prevents female animals from becoming pregnant and reproducing, can help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life. Spaying will not change your pet’s personality.

By spaying your female pet, you’re protecting her against potentially deadly diseases, including bacterial infections, reproductive tract diseases, and several types of cancer. You also won’t have to worry about her going into heat. This means avoiding the mess that often accompanies the heat cycle in female dogs and the pacing and crying that happens with female cats. In addition, spaying your pet will help control the dog and cat overpopulation problem, keeping more animals out of shelters.

Spaying, which involves removing the ovaries and uterus, is a surgical procedure and does need to be performed with the pet under anesthesia. We follow strict protocols and continually monitor your pet’s vital signs to help ensure her safety. Please see the descriptions under Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring for more information on what we do to keep your pet safe.

To set up an appointment to have your pet spayed or to learn more about this procedure, call or visit our clinic. If you are struggling with the decision of whether to spay your pet, please call us so we can discuss your concerns.

Neutering

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Neutering your pet has many benefits. The procedure, which prevents male animals from reproducing, can help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life. Neutering will not change your pet’s personality.

By neutering your pet, you’re reducing or eliminating his risk for prostate and testicular cancer, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Neutering will also reduce or eliminate undesirable and embarrassing behaviour, including roaming, fighting, humping, and spraying. In addition, neutering your pet will help control the dog and cat overpopulation problem, keeping more animals out of shelters.

Neutering, which involves removing the testicles, is a surgical procedure and does need to be performed with the pet under anesthesia. We follow strict protocols and continually monitor your pet’s vital signs to help ensure his safety. Please see the descriptions under Anesthesia and Patient Monitoring for more information on what we do to keep your pet safe.

To set up an appointment to have your pet neutered or to learn more about this procedure, please call or visit our clinic. If you are struggling with the decision of whether to neuter your pet, please call us so we can discuss your concerns.

Soft Tissue Surgery

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We perform many types of soft tissue surgeries at our clinic. Soft tissue surgeries are those that are not associated with bone. These surgeries can provide many benefits to pets.

Probably the most common soft tissue surgery performed on pets is the removal of masses, or lumps. Most of these masses, once removed and tested, are found to be benign (nonharmful); however, occasionally they are more serious. Early removal and accurate diagnosis of a lump is necessary to improve the outcome in your pet if the mass is cancerous.

If your dog suffers from frequent ear infections, surgical intervention can reduce their occurrence by improving airflow into the ear canal.

Surgery can also help resolve several problems related to the eyes. Tearing in your pet’s eyes can mean an infection is present or may be a sign that the cornea (outer layer of the eye) has been damaged. Surgery may allow the cornea to heal faster with less scarring, improving your pet’s ability to see. In some pets, the eyelashes may actually damage the cornea. Surgical intervention improves comfort in these pets, reduces the chances of corneal scarring, and enhances the pet’s vision in the long term.

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss how soft tissue surgery might be able to help your pet.

We're accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association