Surgical Services

Pet Surgery Services

What does it mean to have the surgeons of Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) as part of your pet’s medical team? In a word: confidence. Our commitment to expert treatment, progressive techniques, and compassionate care make us one of the most highly skilled and knowledgeable board-certified surgical teams in southern California.

As veterinary surgical specialists, we are very similar to surgeons in human medicine. After graduation from an accredited veterinary medical school, we each invested 3 to 4 additional years of intensive and focused training — including internship, residency, conducting and publishing investigational research, and a very rigorous, multi-day examination process, called “boards.” Upon passing and completing each of these steps, we are granted our board certification. However, we didn’t stop there. We perform complex and highly technical surgeries every day, keep up with all the latest veterinary surgical advances (and set a few ourselves), and are leaders in our field.

This advanced training and continuous learning means we bring a wealth of experience to your pet’s case. If you’ve been referred to VSS, it’s because your pet’s primary care veterinarian is aware of the level of advanced, skilled expertise we provide and is confident your pet will receive the very best of care.

For more information on the types of surgeries we perform, click any of the links below:

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Cardiothoracic surgery involves the surgical treatment of diseases of the heart, lungs, and other areas of the chest (thorax), such the ribs or esophagus. This includes various heart conditions such as arrhythmia or heart disease, cancerous tumor removal, lung diseases, esophageal abnormalities or trauma, infections, or removal of a foreign body.

Depending on what kind of surgical treatment your pet requires, cardiothoracic surgery can involve an incision along the sternum, the breastbone, or between the ribs.  Cardiothoracic surgery is often major surgery, and some patients can require considerably more time to recover than others. In order to minimize post-operative pain, at Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) we prefer using the least invasive surgical techniques and routinely use thoracoscopy for diagnosis of chest, heart, and lung disease. 

Some of the cardiothoracic surgeries we perform include:

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Esophageal surgery
  • Foreign body removal
  • Lung lobe removal
  • Microvascular procedures
  • Neoplasia
  • Pericardectomy
  • Pneumothorax
  • Rib removal
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Tracheal stent placement

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In cooperation with our affiliated Advanced Veterinary Specialty Group (AVSG) practices, we are pleased to be able to offer a variety of advanced diagnostic imaging services — all onsite.

Each modality is best suited for certain types of diagnoses. For example, an MRI is ideal to examine soft tissue, such as ligament or tendon injuries, spinal cord injuries, or even brain tumors. A CT scan is better suited for bone injuries, thoracic and respiratory imaging, and detecting many cancers. Knowing which technology to use for a particular condition is the key to making an accurate diagnosis. We will work with your pet’s primary care veterinarian to determine the best diagnostic course of action.

Diagnostic technologies we offer include:

  • Bone Scintigraphy
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scans)
  • Endoscopy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasonography

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Unfortunately, emergencies happen, and sometimes lifesaving surgical intervention is required in order to save pets. In life-threatening situations (such as trauma, foreign body obstruction, or gastric dilatation or bloat), surgery can mean the difference between life and death — and the highly trained surgical team at Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) is always ready to act when surgery is required.

VSS can accommodate surgical emergencies by referral outside of normal business hours, and your veterinarian can reach us at any time for emergency procedures. Your pet is a beloved member of your family, and we know that emergencies can be confusing and overwhelming. From diagnosis to 24-hour after-care, our compassionate and highly trained team will inform you of all your options and remain in close touch with your family veterinarian. You and your pet will receive the highest level of care with us.

Some of the emergency surgeries we perform are:

  • C-section
  • Exploratory Surgery
  • Foreign Body Obstruction
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulous (Bloat)
  • Hemoabdomen
  • Trauma

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Neurological surgery is a procedure performed on the brain, spinal column, or nervous system. It can treat diseases and conditions such as epilepsy, brain and spinal tumors, intervertebral disc herniation, traumatic brain or spinal injuries, Wobbler’s Syndrome, and encephalitis. 

At Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS), we know that neurologic problems can be challenging and frightening for pet owners. The VSS surgical team will work closely with your primary care veterinarian to ascertain whether or not surgical intervention is the right choice. We routinely use advanced diagnostic and surgical tools like MR Imaging (MRI) — and our location within the Advanced Veterinary Specialty Group (AVSG) building makes it easy for us to consult with other specialists on the best plan of action. Our extensive experience in neurosurgical intervention can give you the confidence that your pet is in expert hands.

Some of the neurological surgeries we perform are:

  • Atlantoaxial Instability
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
  • Skull Fracture Repair
  • Spinal Fractures

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Cancer is always a frightening diagnosis, but modern veterinary medicine offers many options aimed toward achieving the best long-term outlook for pets, including surgical intervention. Oncologic surgery is routinely used in establishing a diagnosis, performing a biopsy, tumor excision, palliative indications, and debulking tumors. When used in conjunction with other cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy), surgery can make these treatments more effective. Surgical intervention can improve your pet’s quality of life and comfort when used as a definitive or palliative therapy.

The Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) team is highly knowledgeable about the role surgery plays in the multidisciplinary treatment of cancer. Our location within the Advanced Veterinary Specialty Group building allows us to easily work with board-certified oncologists and radiologists. Additionally, VSS will work collaboratively to determine when and if, surgical treatment is indicated. 

A few of the oncologic surgeries and procedures we perform at VSS are:

  • Adrenal
  • Limb Amputation
  • Mammary Tumors
  • Mandibulectomy and Maxillectomy
  • Parathyroid
  • Splenic Tumors
  • Thyroid

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Orthopedic surgeries deal with the skeletal system — including bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Some of the more common surgeries, and arguably some of the more successful surgeries performed on pets, are orthopedic in nature. Orthopedic surgery addresses diseases and abnormalities such as hip dysplasia, elbow joint disease, patellar luxation, orthopedic disease, trauma, injuries, and other congenital or acquired conditions. Implants, screws, plates, and other devices are used when indicated. 

As always, at Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) we choose the least invasive surgical procedure available for your pet’s condition, so their recovery can be as swift and pain-free as possible. This means we stay on the leading-edge of new procedures and approaches. Our  surgical team members are leaders in the field of veterinary orthopedics — and it shows by looking at our best-in-class care.

Some of the orthopedic surgeries we perform at VSS include:

  • Arthroscopy
  • Cruciate Ligament Disease
    ⦁ Extracapsular Stifle Stabilization for CCL Injury
    ⦁ Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)
    ⦁ Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Diseases of the Hip
    ⦁ Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHA)
    ⦁ Hip Luxation
    ⦁ PENN-Hip Evaluation
    ⦁ Total Hip Replacement
  • Elbow Dysplasia
    ⦁ Proximal Abducting Ulnar Osteotomy (PAUL)
    ⦁ Sliding Humeral Osteotomy (SHO)
  • Fracture Fixation
    ⦁ External Fixators
    ⦁ Internal Fixation
  • Patella Luxation
  • Reconstructive Surgery
    ⦁ Correction of Limb Deformities – Circular Fixator
    ⦁ Joint Replacement of Elbow and Knee

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There are many instances where reconstructive surgery can have a significant positive impact on your pet’s quality of life. 

In veterinary medicine, reconstructive procedures are in no way beautifying procedures. Instead, reconstructive surgery is used to correct painful, debilitating, and irritating conditions — to help with wound closures when not enough skin is available due to trauma, infection, or tumor removal — or to open up the nostrils in so-called “squishy-faced” breeds to allow for easier breathing.

At Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) , we have a special interest in these quality-of-life procedures, and our experience and credentials mean your pet will be getting the best care possible.

Some of the reconstructive surgeries performed at VSS include:

  • Airway/respiratory management
  • Cheiloplasty
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal alar fold
  • Oral and facial procedures
  • Wound/skin grafting

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Soft tissue surgery generally involves any part of the body that isn’t orthopedic in nature and has some overlap on other surgical specialties. Ranging from liver biopsies to C-sections, a tumor excision to foreign body removal — soft tissue surgeries occur almost anywhere on the body. Whether your pet requires a spleen removal or a trauma surgery, the proven surgeons at Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS) have the experience, skills, and depth of knowledge your pet needs for the best shot at a full recovery.

Some of the soft tissue surgeries performed at VSS include:

  • Abdominal Exploratory
  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
  • Cardiovascular/Thoracic
    • Chylothorax
    • Portosystemic Shunt
  • Feline Megacolon
  • Laparoscopy & Thoracoscopy
  • Salivary Mucocele
  • Surgery of the Ear
    • Ear Canal Ablation
    • Lateral Ear Canal Resection
    • Respiratory Polyps

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Surgery may be just the first step on your pet’s road to recovery or perhaps a non-surgical, therapeutic option may be the best solution. At Veterinary Surgical Specialists (VSS), we know that the right therapy is the key to better outcomes, increased quality of life, and recovery to a full range of motion.

Therapeutic Services include a variety of treatments with the goal of decreasing pain, inflammation, and the need for medication, as well as restoring proper function more quickly to the affected area. Therapy can also help with balance, coordination, and weight loss. Intra-articular therapies can help reduce inflammation and joint destruction, as well as providing pain relief and increased mobility for pets with osteoarthritis. Pain management can include skin patches that allow a slow constant release of localized pain medication, oral pain relievers for home care, or local anesthetic blocks.

Whether your energetic young canine athlete needs intra-articular therapy for osteoarthritis, or your older feline friend needs a pain management protocol after a splenectomy — the VSS surgical team will walk you through the options available, and tailor a program to the needs of you and your pet.

Some of the therapeutic services available at VSS include:

  • Pain Management
  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
  • Stem Cell Therapy

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Please call us at 949.936.0055 or email us at for more information and/or to schedule your dog’s PennHIP appointment.

What is PennHIP?

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is still the most common inherited joint problem in large breed dogs. PennHIP is a radiographic screening technique to evaluate the laxity (or looseness) in canine hips and determine their risk of developing degenerative joint disease (DJD). 

How is the PennHIP evaluation done?

While the examination itself is fairly quick, your dog will be anesthetized to allow for complete relaxation and better radiographic positioning. As an outpatient diagnostic procedure, your pet will go home the same day.

Three x-ray views of the hips are taken:

Distraction view for qualitative measurement of hip joint laxity
Compression view for joint hip congruity
Extension view for osteoarthritis readings

Why is PennHIP the preferred method of evaluation?

Prior to the development of the PennHIP method, Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluations were the norm. The OFA examination cannot be performed until a dog is at least 24 months old, and any veterinarian may provide the service. The radiologist reading the images estimates the laxity of the hips and then subjectively scores them.

Alternatively, the PennHIP exam is done under anesthesia and can be performed on a dog as young as 16 weeks. It is qualitative (actually measures set parameters) in a joint that is manipulated in a controlled, reproducible manner. Only veterinarians who are certified in the technique are qualified to perform the exam. The PennHIP data is then compared to thousands of other studies to assess the degree of that individual’s joint laxity to others of the same age and breed. 

Click below to view sample PennHIP reports.
Pet Owner Report  Veterinarian Report


What are the benefits of PennHIP?

  • It is a qualitative measurement of the hip joint laxity — so you can be certain in the data it provides.
  • It is a well-researched, objective method following strict scientific protocols and published in peer-reviewed veterinary literature.
  • Veterinarians who wish to submit PennHIP x-rays are required to be trained in the technique and certified, helping ensure accurate data.
  • It can help eliminate the hip dysplasia genes out of breeding stock.
  • It can be performed on dogs as young as 16 weeks.
  • It can be used to test if a dog is a candidate for surgery to prevent DJD.
  • It can help assess the usefulness of performing a preventive procedure called Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS), based on the risk of developing hip dysplasia.

Who can perform a PennHIP exam?

Only veterinarians certified in the PennHIP technique may perform the examination. VSS surgeon Dr. Diane Craig meets these requirements.

Do I need a referral?

No referral is necessary for PennHIP. Please call VSS at 949.936.0055 or email us at for more information or to schedule your dog’s appointment.