What is Soft Tissue Surgery?

Soft tissue surgery is considered any surgery that is performed that is not orthopedic. This can range anywhere from splenectomy (spleen removal) to a mass or foreign body removal and even a c-section.

Our Veterinary Board Certified Surgeon – Dr. Carl Koehler – performs all of our surgeries here at VCA Encina Veterinary Medical Center.


  • Abdominal exploratories
  • Advanced wound treatment
  • Arytenoid lateralization (Laryngeal paralysis)
  • Brachycephalic syndrome correction
  • C-section
  • Cystotomy
  • Emergency surgery and trauma
  • Foreign body and/or mass removal
  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat)
  • Gastrointestinal foreign body removal
  • Hernia repairs
  • Mass removal
  • Oncologic surgery
  • Organ and gland removals
    • (liver lobectomy, splenectomy, thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, adrenalectomy, etc.)
  • Reconstructive surgery
    • (typically due to trauma or tumor removals)
  • Thoracic procedures
    • (lung lobectomy, pericardectomy)

Orthopedic surgery is the branch of surgery concerned with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones).

Here at VCA Encina Veterinary Medical Center, we are fortunate to have a Veterinary Board Certified Surgeon – Dr. Carl Koehler – as our orthopedic surgeon. Utilizing our CT scanner and digital x-ray machine, we are able to diagnose our patient’s orthopedic needs, quickly and accurately.


  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Knee and hip replacement
  • Fractures
  • Torn or ripped ligaments
  • Dislocation
  • Bone cysts
  • Limb deformities

Once your pet has been diagnosed, a treatment plan between you and our Veterinary Board Certified Surgeon will be discussed. We offer both surgical and non-surgical treatment options, depending on what is best for your pet and you. Our goal is to provide the best possible treatment plan suited for you and your pet.


  • Amputation of the limbs
  • Angular limb deformity correction
  • Arthroscopy (joint repair)
  • Arthrodesis (joint fusion)
  • Extra-capsular technique
    • (used to repair the crainial cruciate ligament)
  • FHO (femoral head ostectomy)
    • (used to alleviate pain in dogs with hip dysplasia)
  • Fracture repairs
  • Hemipelvectomy (partial removal of pelvis)
  • TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy)
    • (gold standard in knee surgery for large/medium sized dogs)
  • TPO (triple pelvic osteotomy)
    • (for hip dysplasia)

Because these procedures are quite invasive, your pets’ pain management protocol will be customized to his or her specific needs depended on their medical history/health and surgical procedure. As always, we work with you to decide what is best for your pet.

  • Wound Soaker Catheter: This is a catheter that is placed at the site of surgery and releases lidocaine to your pet around the clock to minimize their pain. This is primarily used in amputations.
  • Epidurals: A catheter is placed in the spine region that releases pain and anesthetic medication to block the transmission of signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord.
  • Nerve Blocks: An injection is administered to block the nerves from accessing the point of pain; it numbs the nerves and does not let the pain receptors communicate pain to the brain.
  • Inject-able and Oral Analgesics: Injections and oral medications are used to treat pain while in the hospital, and also once the pet goes home; sometimes a combination of the two are used to ensure your pet is comfortable.
  • Constant Intravenous Infusions: Your pet may receive constant pain medications through his or her indwelling intravenous catheter; this ensures they have a constant stream of pain medication in their blood stream to keep them comfortable.

Once surgery is complete, your pet will stay here at our hospital overnight (most likely) where trained technicians will monitor and administer pain medication, care and support around the clock. We encourage all pet owners to come visit their pet during this time.

Give us a call at (925) 937-5000 to schedule your orthopedic or soft-tissue consultation with our Veterinary Board Certified Surgeon at VCA Encina Veterinary Medical Center.


Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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 general practitioner 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

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.

  • 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 (link to cancer specialty page) 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.


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.

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 general practitioner 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.