The VCA Canada Western Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Centre surgical team includes four board-certified veterinary surgeons and a team of highly skilled veterinary technicians and assistants.  Together we deliver advanced surgical procedures, the safest possible anaesthesia, and compassionate care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What is a board-certified veterinary surgeon?

Your family veterinarian has surgical training, so they are well-qualified for routine procedures. For more advanced surgical procedures or complex conditions requiring specialized care and equipment, your family veterinarian may choose to refer your pet to a board-certified veterinary surgeon.

Board-certified veterinary surgeons are veterinary specialists who have dedicated their careers to training for advanced surgical procedures. This surgical training consists of at least a 1-year internship and a 3-year residency program that meets the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) standards. The ACVS has set criteria for specific training and caseload requirements in a variety of surgical procedures. Additionally, residents must participate in research published in a scientific journal and pass rigorous examinations testing their surgical knowledge and clinical competency. Specialist veterinary surgeons in North America carry the initials DACVS or DACVS-SA after their name. 

The team

All of our surgeons are extensively trained in orthopaedic surgery, soft tissue or general surgery, neurosurgery, surgical oncology and minimally invasive surgery. Our surgical facility is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray), locking plate technology, laparoscopy/arthroscopy/cystoscopy capabilities, and the latest stapling and vessel sealing instruments to ensure the best patient safety and post-surgical outcomes. Our surgeons work closely with other specialists and your family veterinarian to provide the best recommendations and patient care for your pet. At Western, our highly trained team of anaesthesia technicians, in conjunction with the surgeons, will tailor an anaesthesia and pain management regime unique to every patient's needs.  They also work closely with your family veterinarian to ensure they are making the best recommendations for your pet. 

Our surgery and anesthesia team use multimodal analgesia, meaning that your pet receives a tailored pain relief plan before, during and after their surgical procedure. All of our surgical patients recover in our ICU, under the direct care of specialists in critical care. Your pet will be monitored around the clock by veterinarians and highly trained technicians.

When the surgery team is unavailable to answer your questions and the emergency service is available 24/7 to address any urgent concerns.

Please call 403-770-1340 to find out more about the our surgery service or to schedule an appointment. Please note all surgery appointments are by referral only.

What to expect when your pet is referred to our surgery service:

  • An initial consultation with a specialist surgeon regarding your pet’s unique situation. At this appointment, you will meet first with a surgery technician or with a fourth-year veterinary student who will take your pet's vitals and discuss their history. The surgeon will then clarify the details with you, examine your pet, and discuss in-depth their recommendations, including surgical technique, postoperative home care, potential complications, expected outcome and costs. In many cases, your pet will need to be admitted for at least a few hours or the day to complete pre-operative diagnostics (e.g. x-rays, bloodwork, CT scan, ultrasound).
  • Once a surgical plan has been made, the procedure can be scheduled. Many cases can have surgery perform as early as the next day if you wish.
  • On the day of surgery, we will keep in close contact with you regarding your pet's progress. If general anaesthesia is required, we use the safest anaesthetic agents for your pet to ensure a smooth and pain-free induction and recovery.
  • After surgery, patients will recover in our ICU. Many will spend at least one night where he/she will be monitored around the clock by veterinarians and highly trained technicians.
  • At the time of discharge, a technician will discuss home care instructions and you will be provided with detailed written postoperative care notes.
  • A follow-up visit 10-14 days postoperatively is recommended. This visit is included in the cost of surgery. Where possible, we would like to see our surgical patients back at the hospital to ensure their recovery is progressing as expected. In some cases, follow-up visits are provided by another specialty service, such as internal medicine or oncology.
  • For those with a busy schedule, rechecks and bandage changes can be done as a drop off appointment where your pet can board with us for the day.
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 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

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.
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 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.

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 family 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.

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