What is Neurectomy?
A 'neurectomy' is a surgical procedure that involves the removal or cutting of a nerve. This renders the nerve effectively useless, producing a numbing effect in the surrounding bodily tissues. Dogs will typically have this procedure done as a means of nullifying unpleasant pain emanating from a specific body part. Whilst pharmaceutical painkillers can be used to provide pain relief in the short term, the neurectomy procedure is generally reserved for dogs that have a long-lasting problem that they may have to deal with for quite some time. However, the permanence of the operation also means that most vets will usually seek to use other means to solve the dog's problem before resorting to nerve removal.
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Neurectomy Procedure in Dogs
Due to the relatively straightforward concept of the operation, only one visit to the vet is needed in order to complete the surgery after the problem nerve has been identified. Before starting the procedure, the vet will have the dog anesthetized with a general anesthetic before the surgical area is shaved and cleaned to provide a safe operating environment. An incision can then be made laterally over the targeted nerve and the skin, muscle, and connective tissue is moved aside. In some cases, it may also be necessary for the vet to drill through bone in order to reach the relevant nerve bundle, which will add more time to both the procedure itself and the recovery process. Once exposed, the relevant nerve is excised as close to the central nervous system as possible, with care taken to cause as little disruption to the surrounding nervous tissue as the surgeon is able. Once the nerve tissue has been removed from the body, the dog's incision can be sutured shut and cleaned and the animal can be revived. The procedure can also be performed endoscopically, allowing for a smaller incision to be made and thereby lessening the risk of infection.
Efficacy of Neurectomy in Dogs
The operation is very good at permanently eliminating localized pain and providing the dog with an opportunity to resume normal activity levels. That said, it may conceal further degeneration of the hip joint or the worsening of an as-yet undetermined condition. A femoral head and neck resection is an operation that removes the part of the femur that would normally lock into the hip joint. By cutting away the upper section of the bone, a surgeon can allow the leg to sit deeper within the dog's hip joint and relieve many of their symptoms.
Neurectomy Recovery in Dogs
After the neurectomy has been completed, the dog will need some time to recuperate. During this period, it is advisable for owners to restrict the dog's levels of exercise somewhat, as the animal can potentially pick up bacteria from playing in the dirt or damage its surgical incision. Depending on the location of the nerve that has been removed, the dog may need time to get used to moving around again due to the newfound numbness in the targeted area. This is especially true if the nerve was close to the spine or located in one of the limbs. The vet will usually want to schedule another appointment a few weeks after the operation in order to make sure that the dog is healing properly and that they are no longer experiencing the symptoms that necessitated the neurectomy in the first place. In all, it should take several weeks for the dog to resume its normal routine again.
Cost of Neurectomy in Dogs
Due to the extremely high level of skill and expertise required of the surgeon in order to safely operate on the dog's nervous system, the neurectomy procedure commands a fairly high price. Most owners can expect to pay between $800 and $2,000, depending on the location of the nerves in question and the overall health of the dog. By way of contrast, a femoral head and neck resection procedure will typically cost around two thousand dollars and possibly offer a more long-term solution for animals suffering from the advanced symptoms of hip dysplasia.
Dog Neurectomy Considerations
Whilst neurectomy surgery is very useful as a long-term solution for chronic pain problems, there are some attendant risks that owners should be aware of. Firstly, the surgery can potentially cause unwanted numbness in the surrounding tissue. Whilst this is not as bad as pain, it can cause the dog difficulties in detecting further damage and even when moving about. In a similar vein, light physiotherapy may be required in order for the dog to walk properly again, which can further add to the cost of treatment. However, serious disruption to the dog's gait and mobility usually only occurs if the nerve being removed is situated close to the spine.
Neurectomy Prevention in Dogs
Unfortunately, it can be almost impossible to prevent hip dysplasia, as many dogs in certain breeds (such as German Shepherds and Great Danes) are genetically predisposed to the condition, with the problem only becoming evident as they start to grow. However, many chronic pain problems are joint related, meaning that maintaining the animal's connective tissues with proper diet, exercise and supplementation is crucial. Protein-rich food combined with a simple fish oil supplement will go the extra mile towards helping the animal maintain its cartilage and build a healthy musculature.