Common Surgical Procedures



Castration is the surgical removal of the testicles. Castration just before sexual maturity (5-6 months of age) reduces sexual instincts and sterilizes the pet. Aggression and prowling, common in intact males, are largely eliminated. The objectionable urine odor of the male cat is reduced via castration. Dogs become better students for obedience training with castration. Since testosterone is reduced (not eliminated) with castration, owners should reduce the pet’s calorie intake slightly (eg. 10 percent). Pets do not get “fat and lazy” because of castration, but instead make better pets.


Barking dogs present a serious problem in crowded urban or suburban areas. Attempts should first be made to retrain the dog utilizing a citronella training collar. This collar emits a spray of citronella when the dog starts to bark. The action diverts the dog’s attention, thus breaking the barking cycle. Repeated triggering trains the dog not to bark. Surgical removal of the vocal cords (devocalization or ventricularcordectomy) is not recommended. The procedure can predispose the dog to inhalation pneumonia and should only be utilized as a last resort. With surgical debarking enough tissue is removed from the vocal cords to disrupt normal function and prevent barking. Usually the dog’s ability to bark gradually returns within a few months to several years due to scar tissue forming in the voice box. Devocalization or ventricularcordectomy may be performed through the mouth or via an incision over the larnyx (voice box).


Scratching with the front claws and thereby removing old, worn fragments of nails, is normal, instinctive behavior for cats. This behavior can be destructive and costly in the home. If the cat can not be trained to restrict its activity to scratching posts, trees, etc., declawing is the only solution. Declawing by an experienced surgeon utilizing proper anesthesia, surgical technique and analgesia is an acceptable procedure with minimal discomfort. Fallacies associated with declawed cats include: 1) they are defenseless; 2) they are psychologically marred; and 3) it ruins them as pets. In reality, the properly declawed cat (front claws only): 1) can still go outside; 2) can defend itself via teeth, back claws, running away and even climbing most trees; 3) will continue to kneed or claw at furniture, etc. (but will not cause damage – NO FRONT CLAWS) and 4) their personality will not change due to proper declawing.

Ear Drainage Surgery

For an ear to remain normal and healthy, the outer opening of the ear must be large enough to allow proper air circulation and accumulated wax and debris to escape. Chronic infections can cause the ear canal to narrow. In certain cases, surgical reconstruction of the ear canal is the best way to re-establish proper drainage and help prevent recurrent infections.

Hernia Repair

A hernia is the protrusion of body parts through an abnormal opening in the body wall or in a dividing membrane that normally separates body compartments. Examples include umbilical (navel), inguinal (groin) and diaphragmatic hernias. Small hernias may not be dangerous while large ones can cause severe problems and even death. Large hernias may entrap (strangulate) loops of intestines, uterus, urinary bladder, liver and/or spleen. Strangulation cuts off the blood supply to the organ, causing tissue death, infection, peritonitis and even death. Older male dogs may develop hernias alongside the rectum (perineal hernias) that contain loops of bowel and/or fat. Hernias can be congenital (present at birth) or result from weakness or injury to the body wall or membrane. Treatment usually consists of surgical repair whereby the hernia is opened, the entrapped organ replaced to its original location and the opening repaired with sutures or other materials. Hernias may recur due to muscle weakness. Castration helps prevent recurrence of perineal hernias in male dogs.

Nasal Fold Removal

The nasal fold is a prominent ridge of skin below the eyes of some flat-nosed dogs, such as Pugs and Pekingese. Because these breeds also have protruding eyes, the hair on the nasal fold often rubs, irritates and damages the eyes. Treatment usually consists of surgery in order to prevent further damage and possible blindness.

Ovariohysterectomy (Spay)

Ovariohysterectomy is the medical term for spaying (or neutering) female pets. The procedure consists of surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus and is usually performed at 5-6 months of age. If the ovaries are not removed with the uterus (hysterectomy), heat periods still occur even though pregnancy is not possible. Ovariohysterectomy is major abdominal surgery requiring general anesthesia and sterile operating technique. Beside preventing pregnancy and heat periods, the surgery is also performed to treat severe uterine infections, ovarian and uterine cancer and some skin disorders.

Preoperative Precautions

Modern veterinary surgery is safer than ever. Nevertheless, there are a few simple procedures you can carry out at home to minimize problems and prevent unnecessary risks.

General Considerations

  • Good nutrition is very important to reduce surgical stress and aid in recovery. If you have not already done so, discuss your pet’s diet and follow your veterinarian’s advice.
  • Surgical stress may decrease your pet’s resistance to infectious diseases; update all vaccinations prior to surgery.
  • Parasites (both internal and external) constitute considerable stress to your pet’s health. Their presence in conjunction with surgery may cause serious problems. Have your pet examined by your veterinarian on a regular basis.
  • Be sure your veterinarian is aware of any medication your pet is taking or any existing health problems they may be experiencing.
  • Certain laboratory tests should be run before surgery to rule out any pre-existing health problems that might complicate anesthesia or make surgery riskier. Consult your veterinarian.
Tail Docking and Dewclaw Removal in Puppies

Tail docking is the surgical shortening of the tail and is performed to comply with established breed standards, to improve the animal’s appearance or to treat related disorders. The dewclaws are small vestigial claws located on the inside of the front paws and occasionally the rear paws. These claws do not touch the ground and therefore do not wear down. If not regularly trimmed, the dewclaw nails may curl around and grow into the foot. Dewclaws are prone to injury and should be removed in hunting and working breeds. In Poodles and Schnauzers the dewclaws are removed to improve appearance.

Wound Care

A wound is a mechanical injury to the body. Types of wounds include:

  • Contusion: blunt trauma or bruise (usually no break in the skin).
  • Abrasion: superficial scrape of the outer layers of skin.
  • Incised wound: clean cut by sharp object.
  • Lacertation: cut with torn or jagged edges.
  • Puncture: penetrating wound inflicted by a pointed object.

Some open wounds require suturing while others are better left partly or completely open, especially if they are small or severely contaminated.

Drain tubes may be used to afford the escape of pus and fluid from the lowest part of a deep or serious wound. The drain should be kept clean and draining.