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What does “soft tissue surgery” mean on a vets’ website, and is it important?

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When you search online for your veterinary practice you may find that they provide services such as orthopaedics (dealing with the correction of deformities of bones or muscles); dental procedures (dealing with the teeth and oral cavity) and soft tissue surgery. So, what does soft tissue surgery actually mean?

What do we mean by surgery?

Surgery is the branch of medical practice that treats injuries, diseases, and deformities by the physical removal, repair, or readjustment of organs and tissues. There are some illnesses and injuries that can be managed using medication alone. But many times your veterinary team may need to suggest surgery, alongside medicine, to help your pet.

Whats classed as ‘soft tissue’?

Surgery on soft tissue basically encompasses all the tissue in the body that is not hardened by the processes of ossification or calcification that builds bones and teeth.

Soft tissue, when looking at anatomy, is the term that refers to tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body. It does NOT include bone.

Soft tissue includes things like tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, synovial membranes, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels… So you can see how this is a VERY broad topic. There are nearly infinite numbers of surgical procedures that could fall into the ‘soft tissue’ category!

What does this mean in veterinary practice?

Soft tissue surgery clearly encompasses a wide range of procedures involving many internal organs, the body wall, tumours and certain cancers, and hernias or other defects.

Most vet practices do offer soft tissue surgery as it is used to treat many conditions. If a pet is involved in an accident, repairing their wounds with stitches is a minor soft tissue surgery. One of the most common major surgeries performed routinely is neutering. The removal of reproductive organs to prevent unwanted litters and help guard against, or even eliminate, conditions including some cancers.

Your practice may be able to offer a range of soft tissue surgeries. But there may also be certain procedures that they will need to refer onwards to a specialist in Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue) or an advanced practitioner in similar qualifications relating to the injury or ailment we need to treat.

Remember that not every practice is equipped to deal with every single procedure that is available. The range of what can be offered is unique and individual to the team’s interests and extra qualifications at your practice, and the equipment available.

How will I know what they offer?

Your practice may provide details online about the services that they offer. But many times this will be a conversation individual to you with your pet when you are at the practice. When you are in a situation where surgery is recommended or required, your veterinary team will support you through discussion of all the options available for the ailment that your pet has. They will detail whether they can provide that service ‘in house’. Or if the procedure is more advanced and requires referral to another centre.

There are lots of things to consider when choosing a vet practice for your pet. A good practice will have lots of information about their services, facilities and team on their website, and will be happy to answer any questions you have. The things that are important to one family won’t always be the same as what’s best for another. Find out as much as you can about your local practices before registering with the one that is right for you and your precious pet.

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