Community Surgery Service
Welcome to the Community Surgery Service at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The service is distinct from our specialty surgery services in the VMTH (Soft Tissue Surgery and Orthopedic Surgery), and serves as an opportunity for the School of Veterinary Medicine’s fourth-year students to gain a greater degree of hands-on surgical experience during their clinical rotations in the VMTH. There are two branches to the Community Surgery Service – Gourley Community Surgery and CCAH Community Surgery. The Gourley branch of the service performs more complex surgical procedures such as limb amputations, urinary bladder stone removals, eye removals, etc., and requires a two-night stay at the hospital. The CCAH branch of the service performs daily (Monday-Thursday) spay and neuter surgeries, as well as some simple procedures such as small mass removals, after which patients are generally discharged the same day as surgery. All procedures performed by the Community Surgery Service are closely supervised by UC Davis faculty veterinarians. No experiments are ever conducted on VMTH patients, and no procedures are ever performed without owner consent.
Clinical Activities and Procedures
The Community Surgery Service’s mission is to provide high quality compassionate veterinary care for your pet while educating fourth-year veterinary students with a positive, empowering learning experience in performing small animal surgery. In carrying out this mission, the service provides life-enhancing or life-saving surgical care to animals in the community.
The Community Surgery Service provides opportunities for veterinary students to perform some of the more common procedures seen in veterinary practice. For more complicated cases, surgeries are performed by the board-certified surgeons in the VMTH’s Soft Tissue Surgery Service and the Orthopedic Surgery Service, or by other specialty services.
All patients treated by the Community Surgery Service are carefully selected from the patient population based on the potential benefits to animals and the student’s learning. Senior veterinary students gain the valuable experience in these surgeries necessary for them to succeed in their future veterinary careers. All procedures are closely supervised by faculty veterinarians who also assist with more difficult surgeries.
Procedures performed by the Community Surgery Service include:
- Aural hematoma
- Celiotomy and intestinal biopsy
- Cutaneous or superficial abscess treatment
- Digit amputation
- Elective gastropexy
- Excisional biopsy
- Exploratory celiotomy
- Inguinal hernia
- Intestinal resection
- Limb amputation
- Skin mass excision
- Tail amputation
- Umbilical hernia repair
The Community Surgery Service is designed to help patients who are medically stable. The service does not routinely provide intensive pre- or post-operative care, as it does not have continuous overnight monitoring. Any cases that may require such care will be hospitalized in the VMTH at an additional cost to the client.
The service requires that every animal have a reasonable temperament such that they are safe with which to work. Students are in the early stages of learning clinical techniques and may need to handle patients extensively. Therefore, aggressive animals will not be accepted into the program. Feral cats are not accepted for this reason.
In order to be considered for the program, patients must have a medical record from a local primary care veterinarian that documents medical evaluation within the last three months. Before an appointment with the Community Surgery Service is made, these records will be reviewed by UC Davis clinicians. The waiting time for an appointment is approximately one month. However, a cancelation list is maintained, and appointments can be moved up when space is available.
In order to optimize patient safety during anesthesia and surgery, a basic pre-surgical evaluation is provided for all patients, and is included in the fee. However, this is not a substitute for a thorough medical evaluation to confirm a diagnosis prior to scheduling a surgical appointment.
All potential patients must be spayed or neutered, unless it is medically contraindicated. The service can add a spay or neuter procedure to most surgeries for a modest additional fee.
Anesthesia for surgeries is performed by board-certified faculty members of the VMTH’s Anesthesia/Critical Patient Care Service and by registered veterinary technicians. Extensive monitoring technology is used, but patients may be under anesthesia for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, debilitated patients or those with metabolic diseases are not candidates for surgery with the Community Surgery Service.
All patients receiving more complex surgeries in the Gourley branch of the Community Surgery Service will be hospitalized for two nights – one night prior to surgery and one night after surgery. Patients receiving simple procedures in the CCAH branch of the Community Surgery Service are generally discharged the same day as the surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why does my pet have to stay two nights?
- Patients of the Gourley branch of the Community Surgery Service are admitted the day before surgery to allow veterinary students time to thoroughly evaluate the patients prior to surgery. Students must perform physical examinations, run pre-anesthetic bloodwork, and perform additional tests such as x-rays or ultrasound examinations as appropriate after approval by the owner. Additionally students must work with veterinary anesthesiologists to plan anesthesia for their patients. Patients are kept overnight after surgery to ensure that they are well recovered from anesthesia, any surgical pain is well controlled before being released, and students have an opportunity to assess their patients the morning after surgery. However, patients of the CCAH branch of the Community Surgery Service that are having simple procedures are generally discharged the same day as surgery.
- Can I use the Community Surgery Service as my primary veterinarian?
- The Community Surgery Service provides surgical services only. You are encouraged to continue to use your primary veterinarian for your pet’s general health needs. If you do not have a primary veterinarian, the VMTH’s Community Medicine Service can serve as your primary veterinarian. To make an appointment with Community Medicine, please call 530-752-1393.
- My pet is on a special diet. Should I bring my own food?
- Yes, please. Although we cannot accommodate raw diets, we will make every effort to accommodate your pet’s diet needs. Please bring enough for three meals.
- My pet is on medications. Should I bring those with me to the appointment?
- Yes, please. In addition, please make sure that the Community Surgery Service coordinator has been notified of any medications your pet is receiving at the time the appointment is scheduled.
- Why do I need to send my pet’s medical records before I make an appointment?
- The Community Surgery Service does not perform all types of surgeries. We carefully screen our patients to ensure the surgery would make an appropriate training case for the students, and that the pre- and post-operative care required by each patient is reasonable. Cases that require advanced surgical skills, do not provide specific learning opportunities, or require intensive pre- or post-operative care will be referred back to your primary veterinarian or to the VMTH’s Soft Tissue Surgery Service or the Orthopedic Surgery Service (which are operated by board-certified veterinary surgery specialists that have special expertise and advanced training to perform complex surgeries). Additionally, patients with medical conditions that increase their anesthetic risk may be deemed inappropriate for surgery in a teaching situation where anesthetic times are often longer due to the nature of teaching.
- Do I need to be referred by my primary veterinarian?
- Your primary veterinarian is a crucial piece of your pet’s veterinary care. Our communication with your primary veterinarian helps us better understand your pet’s medical needs and ensures your pet gets the best care before, during and after surgery. You are strongly encouraged to speak with your primary veterinarian about your desire to seek surgery through the Community Surgery Service.
- Who will perform the surgery on my pet?
- The Community Surgery Service is a student surgery training program, and veterinary students perform the surgeries. The veterinary students in this program are in their fourth and final year of veterinary school. All surgeries are guided and closely supervised by faculty veterinarians.
- My pet needs emergency surgery. Can it be done at the Community Surgery Service?
- Emergency cases are evaluated on a case by case basis. The Community Surgery Service is not equipped to provide care in all types of emergency cases and cannot provide after-hours surgery services. However, the service will make an effort to accept emergency surgery cases when possible. Of course, the VMTH’s Emergency Room and specialist surgeons are available 24/7, 365 days a year to see any critical emergencies.
- I was told the surgery my pet needs is not student-appropriate. What does that mean and what do I do now?
- A surgery may be deemed inappropriate for students for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, it is because the surgery is technically challenging and would benefit from a more experienced surgeon. If your pet has a condition that is unsuitable for surgery with the Community Surgery Service, your primary veterinarian may be able to provide the surgical services your pet requires. Alternatively, the VMTH’s Soft Tissue Surgery Service or the Orthopedic Surgery Service perform surgery at all levels (these services are operated by board-certified veterinary surgery specialists who have special expertise and advanced training to perform complex surgeries). They can be contacted at 530-752-1393. Ultimately, you are encouraged to work with your primary veterinarian to find the most appropriate source of veterinary care for your pet.
- My dog is in pain and needs surgery now. Why can’t I get an appointment sooner?
- Unfortunately, the Community Surgery Service has a finite surgical capacity. The service is unable to provide all types of surgeries and unable to provide surgery for all animals. An effort is made to accommodate patients needing urgent surgical care, but some cases are simply beyond the service’s capacity. You are encouraged to work with your primary veterinarian to determine if the surgery can be provided sooner, or whether your pet can be kept more comfortable while awaiting surgery.
- I want to have my rabbit spayed. Can I have that done by the Community Surgery Service?
- The Community Surgery Service trains students in surgeries on cats and dogs only. Please contact the VMTH at 530-752-1393 for information on rabbit care through the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine & Surgery Service.
- Do I need to fast my pet before the appointment?
- No, please feed and medicate your pet as usual the morning of your Community Surgery Service appointment. Emergency cases excluded, your pet’s surgery will not be performed the same day as the appointment.
- How much will my pet’s surgery cost and when do I pay for the surgery?
- The cost of each surgery varies with the complexity of the surgery and associated care required. The Community Surgery Service coordinator will provide you with an estimated cost for your pet’s surgery at the time your appointment is scheduled. In addition, at the time of your appointment, the Community Surgery Service veterinarian will provide you with written estimate of costs. Payment for the full estimated cost of the surgery is due when a patient is admitted to the hospital for surgery.
- Can my intact dog (un-spayed/un-neutered) have surgery with the Community Surgery Service?
- All Community Surgery Service patients must be spayed or neutered, unless it is medically contraindicated. The service can add a spay or neuter procedure to most surgeries for a modest additional fee. The Community Surgery Service is committed to helping control pet over-population.
Matthew Prator, DVM
Lauren La Rue, DVM
Elizabeth Montgomery, DVM
Jennifer Surmick, DVM - Chief of Service
Danielle Randall, RVT - Supervisor
Melissa Cavazos MS, RVT - Manager
Jessica Fraser - VMLF Community Surgery Coordinator
Juan-Luis Alvarez, RVT
Stacie Bruce, RVT
Kierstin Riley, RVT
Rodeny Santos, RVT