VCA Canada 404 Veterinary Emergency and Referral Hospital is proud to offer a full-service surgery department. We can provide care for the most challenging surgical cases including: orthopedic, thoracic, spinal, gastrointestinal, oncologic, ear, nose and throat, and reconstructive surgery. We take pride in providing these services on short notice and to animals in critical condition. Our surgical team is available to care for your pet day or night, including weekends and holidays.

In addition to obtaining their general veterinary degrees, all of the surgeons at the 404 have completed (at minimum) a 1-year surgical internship and a 3-year surgical residency to become eligible to sit the rigorous board examinations from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). In addition to ACVS board-certified surgeons, our surgery team includes anesthesiologists, highly trained registered veterinary technicians/ technologists, and surgical assistance support staff. We believe that a “successful” surgical case requires attention to detail at every stage of case management from every member of our team.

Our approach to surgical consultation includes:

  • Initial consultation with the surgeon and a review of the surgical techniques required, any potential complications, and anticipated outcomes and costs;
  • Accurate diagnosis using appropriate tests such as on-site blood tests, radiographs, computerized tomography (CT), arthroscopy, laparoscopy biopsy, etc;
  • Supervised anesthesia to ensure smooth induction and recovery with intensive intra-operative monitoring under the direct supervision of our experienced veterinary technicians;
  • Pre and postoperative pain management. We believe in pre-emptive and multimodal pain management;
  • Surgical procedure ensuring careful attention to aseptic technique. Our surgeons have a broad range of training and experience in a wide variety of surgical techniques;
  • 24-hour after-care to ensure appropriate pain management and postoperative management techniques are applied through the night and over the weekend;
  • Comprehensive home-care instructions upon discharge. A discharge appointment is set up to ensure that all go-home instructions are reviewed and understood. All care instructions are written down and accompany the pet parent in a discharge package;
  • Postoperative follow-up appointment booking. We like to see our cases through to successful conclusions whenever possible. Suture removal and other follow-up appointments are scheduled at the time of discharge; and
  • Finally, a day or two after being discharged, our team will make a follow-up call to ensure home recovery is going smoothly and to answer any questions or concerns if they arise.
What are common referral veterinary surgeries?
    • Tumour removal
    • Limb amputation
    • Cruciate ligament repair (TPLO’s and other traditional methods)
    • Surgical repair of elbow dysplasia
    • Spinal problems/herniated discs
    • Gastric dilatation/volvulus
    • Wound management and skin reconstruction
    • Urinary obstruction
    • Foreign body removals
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). This is a delicate joint where the “kneecap” is held in place on top of the tibia by two cruciate ligaments and is prone to traumatic injury. Rupture can occur when the joint is rotated unexpectedly, hyperextended, or when it is hit catastrophically from side or the front. Certain conformational defects, such as crooked legs, can also lead to slow degeneration of the joint over time.

There is a surgical correction that can help alleviate the problem. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, or TPLO, is a procedure that puts the animal’s knee joint back in proper alignment. During 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. The animal’s activity must be severely limited to facilitate proper healing. Patients must not be allowed to jump, run, excessive play, climb up or 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 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 primary care veterinarian.

Hip dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a hereditary developmental disease that affects the hip joints of dogs. Certain breeds are more likely to be affected than others. Poor conformation of the hip and thigh bone structures results 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 maintaining a snug fit in a healthy joint. This abnormal movement can create wear and tear in the joints, 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 of age 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 Replacements (THR) procedures, a dog’s diseased hip joints are replaced with prosthetic ones. The goal of both surgeries is to provide relief for your pet so they can resume some measure of normal activity. A very high level of success is reported with these surgeries. However, it is very important to follow your veterinary surgeon’s recommendations regarding recovery and rehabilitation for the best outcome.

What are the most common emergency surgeries?

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) This life-threatening disease in dogs, most commonly affects deep-chested, large or giant breed dogs. GDV, more commonly known as bloat, happens when the stomach fills up with food or gas, causing the stomach to expand. In the more life-threatening cases, the stomach will rotate or twist. When this happens, immediate medical and surgical intervention is required.

Foreign body removals A foreign body can be any household item such as kid’s toys, string, clothes (socks!) and plastic packaging that becomes lodged in the stomach. These items become an obstruction if/when they are unable to be properly digested by your pet. Dogs and cats at any life stage are susceptible to ingesting a foreign body. However, younger pets are generally more curious and prone to chew on household items. Be sure to keep an eye out for any small items that your pet could ingest. Symptoms of a foreign body obstruction include vomiting or not eating for a period of time. This can lead to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Before performing surgery, hospitalization with intravenous fluids is recommended to stabilize your pet. Once stable, surgery can be performed to remove the foreign body.

Urinary Obstruction / Urolithiasis Urinary obstructions can occur in male and female cats and dogs but is most common in males. The most common cause of a urinary obstruction is bladder stones getting stuck in the urethra, preventing the passage of urine. However, obstructions can also be caused by muscle spasms in the urethra, cystitis, mucous plugs and certain cancers. If left untreated, urinary obstructions can become life-threatening.

Fracture repairs  The long bones of dogs and cats are almost identical to the bones of the legs and arms of people, and just like people, dogs and cats can break these bones due to vehicular trauma, fight with other animals, and some sporting injuries to name a few causes. Optimal healing of a fracture requires the joints above and below the fracture to be immobilized. When the fracture occurs in a location where an external bandage or cast cannot adequately immobilize these joints, the fracture must be surgically repaired. If a bone is fractured in multiple places or spirals along the length of a bone, a simple pin will not provide enough support to immobilize the fracture and allow healing. Therefore bone grafts may be required to adequately help with the healing process.

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 pet’s veterinary team (your pet’s family veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, and any other veterinary specialists involved in your pet’s care) will prescribe pain management options to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible before, during, and after surgery. If you are concerned about pain management for your pet, please talk to your veterinarian.

Questions to ask your veterinarian

Many pet parents are increasingly seeking specialized care for their pets to secure the very best medical outcome. If your pet is facing surgery, here are some questions you may wish to ask your family 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

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