Veterinarians often are called upon to perform surgery on sick or injured animals. Patients range from small household pets to large farm animals. There are three major categories of veterinary surgery.

3 Types

The first category is orthopedics. This type of surgery involves anything related to the muscles, joints or bones. The second type of surgery that a veterinarian may perform is a surgery of the soft tissue. Soft tissue surgery includes anything related to the skin, cardiovascular system, stomach, respiratory tract, genitals or other organ systems. The third major category is neurosurgery which includes any surgery that involves the brain.

Perhaps the most common surgery that veterinarians perform is sterilization surgery. These procedures can be performed on male or female animals and ensure that an animal is incapable of reproducing. This can be done to prevent breeding, unwanted behavior, or certain medical problems.

At times, animals may develop dental problems that require surgery. Teeth may need to be removed, or surgical treatment for gum disease may be necessary. Eye surgeries called ophthalmic surgeries may also be performed to treat a variety of diseases and conditions of the eyes including cataracts, glaucoma, and eyelid tumors. Older animals can commonly develop tumors of any number of organs. Surgery to remove the tumor is often the first treatment step. Modern surgical techniques are available that utilize lasers. These types of surgery are much more minimally invasive which improves the patient’s experience and recovery time.


Prior to performing surgery, the veterinarian will, in most cases, perform a thorough examination and diagnosis. Tests may include blood work, ultrasound scans, and x-rays. During surgery, animals often need to undergo anesthesia. Local anesthesia can be used for minor surgeries. In more complex cases, the animal may have to be sedated or be put under general anesthesia.

Veterinarians who work in general practice often perform routine surgeries. These surgeries may include spays and castrations, removing minor masses and more. More advanced surgeries may require a specialist. Examples of advanced surgeries include total joint replacement, cancer surgery, complicated internal issues, kidney transplants, severe or complicated wounds and more. Surgery is one of the specializations that veterinarians can have under their certification board, the American Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinarians who wish to become board certified surgeons must undergo additional years of training and residency and perform a large number of supervised surgeries in all surgical categories. They must also pass an exam.