On Wednesday, I spent the day once again watching a small selection of operations. The most interesting of which was a Bernese Mountain dog who had melanoma in its tail so had to have it amputated. The vets thought very carefully about where exactly the incision should be made. It had to be significant enough to completely get rid of the cancer however, there was no reason why the whole tail should be removed to leave only a small stump as the melanoma was situated near the end. But they had to think about the wound and the damage it could come to from a very waggy dog! Therefore they decided to amputate two thirds from the end of the tail so one third of the original was left. This meant that the tail would not escape past the hind legs of the dog and so the stump would be unable to hit anything on happy wagging expeditions.
Once the dog was anaesthetised its tail was shaven and thoroughly cleaned with antiseptic whilst I held up the tail. It was bandaged so that only the portion revealed was where the incision would take place. When taken into theatre this had to be covered by the vet with a sterile bandage to ensure that everything was sterile and no infection could be spread during the procedure.
The incision was located at the gap between two vertebrae of the tail.
Once the skin had been cut, the three major blood vessels had to be located as shown in this diagram. It was very important that all three were tied off with catgut suture before being cut through to inhibit as much blood loss as possible. Furthermore, the less blood, the easier the operation becomes. As demonstrated by the vet who helping with the procedure who constantly dabbed at the open wound with a swab.
Once this had been done, the amputation itself was ready to take place. A tail is much easier to separate than most other bones going through the same operation. This is
because of the convenient gaps between each piece of bone, or vertebrae. This means that an ordinary scalpel could be used to cut through the cartilage rather than a bone saw.
Once the end of the tail has been removed, the two ovals could be stitched together around the remaining stump of vertebrae. Leaving a perfect, melanoma-free tail!
This amputation was the longest I have observed but there was still time afterwards to see a cat who had bitten its own tongue. It was put under anaesthetic so it could be inspected with ease. The edge of the tongue had blackened with lack of blood and was hanging on only by a measly bit of flesh. The vet suspected that it had been like this for a few days and if had been brought in immediately, the piece of tongue could have been stitched back into place. However, as the area that had encountered the cats teeth had almost completely healed over, the only thing to do was to cut off the bit of tongue and put in place a few stitches where it had not yet healed over.
From seeing these unusual operations, I have observed the importance of precision in veterinary practice in everything you do.