Surgical Procedures

In the specialty of veterinary dermatology, surgical procedures are sometimes needed to facilitate a more accurate diagnosis or to provide a more rapid path for better treatment outcomes. Examples of surgical procedures performed by the doctors of Animal Dermatology Clinic include skin biopsies, removal of skin tumors and polyps, and removal of scarring and proliferative lesions in areas such as the ear.

Animal Dermatology Clinic practices are equipped with CO2 lasers which allow for more advanced and efficient surgical procedures often with much less pain for the patient. CO2 lasers are often used in areas where traditional surgery may be difficult to perform or may cause excessive bleeding. This tool allows our dermatologists to make a precise incision with limited bleeding and more rapid healing than traditional surgery. Almost any surgery that can be performed with a traditional scalpel can be performed with a CO2 laser and there are many surgeries that can be performed with a CO2 laser that would be very difficult to do with a scalpel.

Sebaceous adenomas
Sebaceous adenomas
Sebaceous adenomas 10 days post sx

Dermatologists often see patients with multiple lesions. Traditional surgery for multiple lesions can take hours of cutting and suturing each site and, if performing this procedure under a general anesthesia on senior pets, creates additional risk. With a CO2 laser, the procedure can often be done in half the time and the healing is rapid.

Specialized procedures performed using a CO2 laser include removal of challenging interdigital cysts in paws, podoplasty, ablation of skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma in cats, and in some cases removal of the nasal planum.

While surgery may be considered a last resort by many pet owners, many cases show that an early surgical intervention may prevent further progression of disease. The dermatologists and staff at Animal Dermatology Clinic are always happy to discuss whether a specific surgical procedure is the right choice for your pet.

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Surgical Procedures FAQs

CO2 laser surgery is a surgical procedure that is performed using a carbon dioxide laser in place of a scalpel blade or other instruments. Advantages of using a CO2 laser include less pain on recovery, less inflammation and faster recovery. When removing surface lesions or growths, the CO2 laser often allows multiple masses to be excised without suturing each site and in a much shorter surgical procedure.

Recovery time depends on the type of surgery being performed, but in general, recovery time is faster following CO2 laser surgery compared to conventional surgery procedures.

CO2 surgery procedures are typically less painful than those performed using conventional scalpels and other tools. Most surgeries require sedation or general anesthesia, but recovery is often rapid.

Potential side effects or complications from CO2 laser surgery are the same as with any surgery, but are uncommon. These may include swelling, discomfort or pain at the surgery site, and, very rarely, secondary postoperative infections. These events are uncommon and happen less often than with conventional surgical techniques.

There is no set list of items to avoid with all surgeries, but in general pets should be kept quiet and inactive the day and evening following a surgical procedure. When a pet can return to normal activity and habits may vary and should rely on the specific medical advice provided for your pet and his/her procedure.

A skin biopsy is a surgical procedure, but is typically considered a minor procedure and almost always an outpatient procedure.

Skin biopsy is the process of obtaining a small sample of skin or a skin lesion to provide more in-depth information about a particular disease, infection, growth or tumor. This procedure is used to diagnose challenging or deep infections, immune mediated diseases, differentiate between benign and malignant growths and many diagnostic needs. It is often the most informative procedure that can be performed and may be the difference between the right path for resolution of a problem and the wrong direction or diagnosis.

Whether or not a pet needs to be sedated for a biopsy depends on several factors including the nature and location of the lesion(s) being sampled, the temperament of the pet and the age and any other health conditions present. For most pets, sedation for biopsy makes the procedure faster and much less stressful.

Skin biopsy is typically not painful at all. Prior to performing the biopsy, a pet is sedated and then a local anesthetic is injected just below the skin at the site of the biopsy. This provides numbness of the area so that no pain is felt during the procedure and may last 2-3 hours after the procedure.

Skin biopsy is typically a rapid procedure. Exact length of time may vary depending on the number and location of sites being biopsied and speed of sedation for an individual. Typical times may range from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Results from biopsies may take 1-3 weeks to return. When samples are obtained, they are placed in a preservative and sent to a laboratory for processing and tissue staining. The samples are then forwarded to a dermatopathologist for review and analysis. Once findings are recorded by the dermatopathologist they are forwarded to the veterinary dermatologist for review and further treatment decisions. In some cases special stains or advanced analysis may be needed and may require additional steps and time.

Side effects of biopsies are typically minimal. They may include itching or pain at the biopsy site, swelling or bleeding. If any of these are extreme, pet owners should contact their veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist who performed the procedure. Pet owners are typically encouraged to keep biopsy sites covered or have the pet wear an Elizabethan collar until sutures are removed to prevent trauma to the biopsy site.

When a biopsy is anticipated, pet owners are encouraged to fast their animals the night before since sedation or anesthesia may be needed. They should also avoid doing any cleaning, bathing or medication application to the skin lesions being sampled.


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