What is Scapulectomy?

A 'scapulectomy' is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the scapula from the body of the dog. The scapula is a bone commonly referred to as the 'shoulder blade' which provides a convenient anchor point for various tissues and forms the rear portion of the shoulder girdle. On occasion, a dog can suffer from health problems that affect the tissues of the foreleg or the shoulder. In order to remedy these problems, it may become necessary for the vet to surgically remove the scapula, resulting in a reduction in pain, stabilization of the area, and halting the potential spread of a disease through the body. However, the procedure is generally only viewed as a last-resort and is commonly performed along with other surgeries.

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Scapulectomy Procedure in Dogs

Before the operation can begin, the vet will sedate the dog with a general anesthetic before shaving a portion of their back and shoulder and applying a disinfectant. A series of incisions will then be made around the scapula in order to expose it, and the attendant muscles and ligaments will be detached. Next, the surgeon will remove the bone from the body before the ligaments can be fixed back into their proper position. If the limb is being removed as well, the surgeon will often sever the clavicle at some point before fixing the bones back in place with metal plates. The dog can then have the incisions sutured shut and be allowed to awaken.

Efficacy of Scapulectomy in Dogs

The removal of a diseased scapula or ruined limb will quickly lead to an improvement in the dog's condition, with much less stress being placed on the body. Needless to say, the effects of the procedure will be permanent and the dog may require some physiotherapy before it is capable of walking confidently again. Because of this, owners may be tempted to use alternative treatments such as internal fixation of bones and chemotherapy or radiotherapy to deal with tumors. However, because a scapulectomy is usually only performed as a last resort, these methods will usually have been exhausted or dismissed prior to the surgery.

Scapulectomy Recovery in Dogs

After the operation, the dog will need plenty of time to heal. Most animals can expect to recover within roughly four weeks, though older ones may need more time. The vet will most likely want to schedule a series of regular follow-up appointments so that they can check that the dog is healing well and perform physiotherapy in order to get them used to moving with their altered body. The vet will also provide painkillers and antibiotics for the owners to give to the dog on a regular basis, in order to ward off pain and infection. Additional treatment may be needed to resolve certain kinds of cancer, normally taking the form of a course of chemotherapy that will ensure the destruction of any cancer cells that may remain in the body.

Cost of Scapulectomy in Dogs

A scapulectomy is a very complex and time-intensive procedure, both of which factors can increase if an amputation is performed as well. Because of this, the prices for the operation can be quite high, with many dog owners expecting to pay between $800 and $1,500 for the procedure. In contrast, alternative treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be expected to cost several hundred dollars per course, but may prove to be far less effective than simply excising the diseased areas.

Dog Scapulectomy Considerations

Many owners may have reservations about having a scapulectomy performed on their dog despite its useful nature when it comes to dealing with aggressive cancers and assisting amputations. The main reason for this is the perception that the dog will have difficulty moving without the aid of the shoulder blade. Whilst this is true to a degree, with the appropriate physiotherapy, the dog should be able to regain a good amount of joint stability in its shoulder. Furthermore, if the procedure is not performed, it can lead to the spread of cancer through the body, leading to greater illness and the eventual death of the animal.

Scapulectomy Prevention in Dogs

There are several things that dog owners can do in order to prevent the injuries that are normally associated with amputation and scapulectomy. Firstly, ensuring that the animal is trained how to behave appropriately around roads and vehicles is imperative, as most of the injuries that cause irreparable damage to limbs are caused by dogs being caught under the wheels of cars. Additionally, making sure that the dog's living area is well enclosed and the property boundary is fenced and gated can prevent them from straying into the path of danger. Cancers, meanwhile, are much harder to combat. This is because of the fact that they are hereditary and as such are very difficult to predict before they manifest themselves.