MELISSA MCPHERRON, DVM, MS

Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS)

What is a veterinary surgeon?

A veterinary surgeon has undergone additional training after veterinary school in order to become a specialist. This training consists of a minimum of a 1-year internship followed by a 3-year residency program that meets guidelines established by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).
During the residency there are specific training and caseload requirements that must be met. In addition to these requirements, applicants must perform research that is published in a scientific journal and then pass a rigorous examination.
Specialists are called a “Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons” or a “board-certified surgeon.”

All veterinarians may perform surgery as part of their veterinary practice. However, difficult cases may be best managed by a specialist. Board-certified surgeons work closely with the owner and the primary veterinarian before and after surgery in a team approach to ensure continuity of care for your animal.

Why seek a veterinary surgeon?

Animals deserve the very best care possible. Just as humans are treated by specialists for a variety of medical reasons, animals should be treated by veterinary specialists when advanced care is warranted. Surgery often warrants that care. ACVS Board-Certified Veterinary Surgeons can provide that care.

There are a variety of reasons to seek a veterinary surgeon:

  • Expertise and specialized training
  • Primary veterinarians focus on the day-to-day needs of your animal.  Veterinary surgeons spend years training specifically in surgical procedures.
  • Specialists are more likely to see complicated cases.
  • Specialists can provide you with options and help you determine the best treatment for your animal.
  • Enhanced care. Surgeons are more likely to have access to:
  • Specialty equipment
  • Other veterinary specialists (your surgical team may include board-certified radiologists and critical care specialists)
  • Technicians who understand the needs of animals undergoing surgery
  • Advanced monitoring of your pet

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian Before Your Pet Has Surgery

Your pet depends on you to find a veterinarian with the experience and training required if surgery is necessary. If a surgery is not “routine,” some important questions to ask your veterinarian include:

  • How often have you performed this surgery?
  • What are the alternatives to this procedure?
  • Does the surgery require special equipment? Is the equipment available at your clinic?
  • Would advanced imaging, such as a CT scan or MRI, help surgical planning?
  • Will my pet require anesthesia?
  • Will my pet have an IV catheter for hydration and, if there is an emergency, for quick access to the cardiovascular system?
  • What if my pet gets an infection?
  • What should I expect the outcome of the surgery to be?
  • What are the risks and possible complications of anesthesia and surgery?
  • What follow-up care is necessary?
  • Should my pet stay in the hospital after surgery? Will there be a doctor or a nurse on the premises?
  • Can you be reached by phone during the evening and night of the procedure if I have any questions or concerns about my pet?
  • Are you available for questions regarding post-operative care?
  • Is this a procedure that a board certified surgeon may perform on a more frequent basis?
  • Is this a procedure that may be more appropriate for a board certified surgeon, due to training/experience/skill/equipment?

General practice veterinarians who provide  the highest level of care for their patients and clients,  are accustomed to interfacing with specialists. They will help you to understand all options,  readily solicit second opinions and offer referral, when indicated or requested by pet owners.

Many surgeries that pets undergo would benefit from the attention of a veterinary surgical specialist. To help you and your pet, there is a network of veterinary specialists ready to provide the special surgical care your pet needs. These specialists are the veterinary surgeons that have been board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).