Surgical Log: A Typical Wednesday

The second floor of our clinic houses our kennels, kitty boarding alcove, staff lounge, doctors’ offices, radiology suite, dental tables, treatment area and our surgical ward.  I had the pleasure of helping design the space with Dr. Fritzler years ago and it is a joy to work in.  A client who toured the space referred to it as, “the inner sanctum” and I have called it that ever since.  While most of my week is spent examining patients during appointments, I dedicate one day to surgical and dental procedures.  Wednesday is my surgery day and I will see a combination of dentistry, teeth extractions, routine surgery, diagnostic procedures, growth removals and more extensive surgery.

            The surgical team on Wednesday includes two licensed technicians, Sarah S. and Kirsten H., an assistant, Hilari B., and often one other doctor, Nick Paulson.  This team may vary but this is a team I have had together for some time now.   We work together to accomplish the medical tasks in front of us.  The technicians are your pets’ nurses.  They administer and monitor the anesthesia,  clean the teeth during dentals and take all dental radiographs.  They also administer chemotherapy and prepare animals for surgery.  Assistants also prepare animals for surgery, perform radiographs and other diagnostic tests, hold and recover patients and perform other tasks as they are qualified.  My staff is exceptionally skilled and well trained and we could not provide the level of medical care we provide without them.

            When patients are dropped off the morning of a procedure, it is an emotional and stressful moment for owners when we walk out of the exam room with their pet and head upstairs.  Upstairs is unknown and procedures are unfamiliar and the thought of anesthesia is stressful.  We strive to keep owners aware of progress during and after procedures, though how long a given procedure may take is quite variable and we often find ourselves with unpredictable delays.  Complications or a more involved twist on one animal’s procedure will delay completion of procedures on the remaining patients. 

            Truthfully, there is no typical Wednesday.  I often say that I have quite literally never been bored.  A past Wednesday is a good example as it involved an array of cases.  Moose came in for a dental and tooth extraction.  He broke one of his big shearing teeth in the back of his mouth on his upper jaw.  He was showing no signs of pain; the broken tooth was found on his yearly physical.  On reflection, his mom did think he had been acting differently.  We cleaned his teeth, took radiographs of the affected tooth and surgically extracted it.  Zsuska also had a dental and a similar tooth removed.  She was showing her dad that her mouth hurt.  She is huge and can be aggressive.  Handling her was an additional challenge.  Another older kitty had multiple teeth that needed to be surgically extracted.  These teeth, especially in older animals, can be quite difficult to remove.  It is literally, “like pulling teeth.”  Both animals had a full set of radiographs taken of their mouths.

A pug was in for a minor growth removal.  All the Brachiocephalic breeds (smooshed face dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs) add another layer of complexity to their anesthesia because of their breathing issues.  We have a very specific protocol, developed by Dr. Jeanine Barile, to handle brachiocephalics safely.   Dr. Barile has a strong interest in and extensive knowledge of brachiocephalic medical care. 

Also on that Wednesday, Dr. Nick Paulson performed an abdominal exploratory surgery to collect biopsies and diagnose why a dog was losing weight.  He found Lymphangectasia, a disease that is entrenched in the lymphatic system of the intestinal tract.  It is only diagnosable on biopsy, typically taken during a full exploratory.  There is medication to treat it and the dog should do well.

            We also took several sets of radiographs under sedation, performed an ultrasound on a kitty and removed fluid from around her lungs to help her breathe better.  Kirsten spent time with a golden retriever collecting samples for submission to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.  The enrolled animals come in periodically for urine, blood and toenail trimmings to be collected for evaluation. The data will be used to help develop protocols for treating cancer and other diseases in all dogs.

            I enjoy my surgery days, the challenges they bring and their randomness.  Know that everyone who interacts with your pets is skilled and knowledgeable and that we care about our patients and their recovery, comfort and safety.