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What is Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue?

After a serious injury or infection, it is common for tissue to die and fall off the body. However, when tissues die on a large scale, it presents a very real danger to the health of the dog. These gangrenous or necrotic tissues will almost always require excision or amputation in order to prevent sepsis and eventual death. This process is known as 'debridement' and usually takes the form of cutting dead flesh away from an existing wound.

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Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue Procedure in Dogs

The main method of surgically removing dead tissue is to use a scalpel or similar implement to manually cut it from the body. Sometimes, a mechanical 'scouring' device can be used to strip it away, but this method is less common due to its high tendency to damage healthy tissue. The first step the surgeon will take is to sedate the dog with a general anesthetic, which will allow the vet to better examine the wound and determine exactly where their cuts need to be placed. The next step is to incrementally remove the dead tissue, taking care not to cut deeply into the healthy tissue that surrounds it. After the dead flesh has been removed, the wound will be cleaned and covered with a dressing in order to heal properly. 

Efficacy of Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue in Dogs

Unless an infection has already spread from gangrenous tissue into the rest of the body, the effects of removing dead tissue will be instant. The wound will now be able to heal properly, instead of having its progress blocked by the dead matter. Although scarring may be an issue afterwards, the effects of successfully excising gangrenous flesh will be permanent as a major vector for infection is removed from the body. 

That said, there are alternative methods for removing dead tissue that are not quite as invasive (though somewhat less reliable). The first is to simply cover the wound and give the body an opportunity to break it down naturally (although this can simply give the rot time to spread). The second method is to use man-made chemicals to burn the dead flesh away. Although quite effective, this method does carry a substantial risk of harming healthy tissue. The third alternative is to use naturally occurring enzymes to digest the dead flesh whilst it is still in the wound - though this can take quite some time.

Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue Recovery in Dogs

Following the surgery, it is important for owners to provide a high quality of aftercare, as the wound their pet just had debrided will have increased considerably in surface area. This means that the dog's movements may have to be restricted via even less exercise and the use of an 'E-collar' to prevent them from introducing more bacteria into the wound with their mouth. Painkillers will also be required to stop them from suffering unneeded discomfort until the healing process is complete. The vet may also want to schedule a series of checkups after the surgery to make sure that no further complications have arisen. The total healing time for the surgical wound itself may be just over a month, depending on the size and depth of the area affected, and the age and general health of the dog involved.

Cost of Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue in Dogs

The cost of wound debridement depends on several factors including the severity of the base injury and the nature of the dog's medical history. More extensive surgery will command a higher price, as more expertise and finesse is required in order to avoid complications. Typically, the base cost will be over $600 but can be expected to not exceed $1,000.

Dog Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue Considerations

As always, owners of older dogs or dogs with a history of heart and breathing problems should be wary of any surgery that requires the use of general anesthesia. That said, while there are alternatives available, direct surgical removal of dead tissue is one of the fastest and most reliable ways to rectify the problem. 

Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue Prevention in Dogs

It is virtually impossible to predict and avoid most common injuries, as they are more or less an inevitable part of any active dog's life. That said, making sure to keep cuts and other open wounds clean and free of dirt will prevent a dog from developing necrotic tissue that requires removal. This does not just apply to surgical wounds, but also to everyday cuts and scratches.

Surgical Removal of Dead Tissue Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Ellie
Jack Russell
8 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

No symptoms showing and no discomfort

My dog was bitten by a venomous snake and was treated for 6 days in the animal hospital. Dr was amazing. My dog ellie does have some large amounts of necrosis. Dr is hoping it will heal on its own. It was just black tissue when she came home but now 2 days later the black tissue has separated from the healthy tissue and leaving an open wound. I have been soaking her twice daily in nolvasan for 10 minutes each time. Not sure its helping. Do you think she can heal on her own or should we suggest to the Dr we want the debridement surgery?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
If the healthy tissue is exposed, this will be the start of the healing process but it will take a long time; without examining the wound I cannot determine whether debridement and suturing closed would be a suitable option or not. You should keep an eye on the wound and ensure that the area is kept clean, follow up with your Veterinarian as they will need to determine if any further intervention is required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Adela
Pug
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog had her eye removed after being attacked by another dog two years ago. She healed amazingly. Recently the area got very swollen, she was in pain. Swelling was responsive to antibiotics but came back after we finished first for a week, second time about a month. It had to be re-opened and tissue tested. A ball of dead tissue has been found inside, majority removed. What could have caused creation of dead tissue in there? Could there be some kind of neglect during the eye removal procedure that have caused it, infection during or after surgery or could it just happened naturally, well bad luck? Histopathology and culture tests came fine. Thank you.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
I'm glad that Adela's culture and pathology came back as negative, and that the problem was not more serious than dead tissue causing the problem. With any surgery, there is a possibility for complications, and from what you describe, I would not suspect neglect, but more natural tissue breakdown and rejection by the body of tissue that may have otherwise been broken down. I hope that she is okay from her on out.

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Paisley
chug
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Possible infection

My dog 2 yrs old just had tissue removed due to being attacked by another dog. I'm caring for her at home now, she was at the vets for 11 days, getting better. Shes antibiotics, pain meds and probiotics(I think that's what it is) my concern now is , her wounds are red like vet said , but this evening I was cleaning one and it had this brownish stuff on it. I wiped it away with the medicated wipes, but what is it? The other wound doesn't have that stuff. I'm just worried, hoping it's not infected.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
A brown discharge may indicate some old blood from some bleeding and is considered ‘normal’ if in small amounts, keep an eye on the wound and ensure that it isn’t warm or has any white/yellow discharge coming from it. I believe it is just some broken down blood, but if you are concerned or you notice anything else concerning visit your Veterinarian Monday morning. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jennie
GSD/Husky
17 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Would an alternative to debridement possibly be safer for a geriatric dog? I am so worried about our girl going through surgery, but I want her better. I also feel we may be battling recurring infection if we don't at least do a lift surgery. Our little one (17 years old) has had an infection of the vaginal area. She has lost a bit of weight over the last year (switched her to real food) and se is spayed. The vet discovered that there is a hood of skin causing moisture and possibly urine to collect in the area. The vet also discovered necrotic tissue. The recommendation is surgery to debride and lift/tuck the skin. They sedated her to clean the area at a lower than usual does due to her age. She came home ad was out cold and disoriented the little time she was awake for the rest of the evening. I am so afraid she may not handle surgery well, but also am afraid of what will happen if we don't. To compound things, we are moving in 1.5 weeks. If surgery is the best option, I believe we will wait until we get to our new location. that puts the surgery out at least 3 weeks.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
I understand your concerns, especially in a girl the age of Jennie, but I cannot think of an alternative especially if your Veterinarian found some necrotic tissue; I wouldn’t wait the three weeks for you to settle into your new home but get the surgery done sooner, assuming that her blood tests come back well and she is otherwise in good general health. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

My dog got a broken leg and femur due to a car running her over. I took her to the vet immediately this happen on Thursday morning, he charge over a $1600 and told him I would try to raise the money left him a down payment of $100 and he kept my dog. Went back Friday to see her and saw that she still had small pieces of rocks around wound and by this time donations where being called in. On Saturday I went to see her foot look swollen and didn't wanted to check wound because it look swollen ( doctor was not there so could not ask about her health) Sunday vet was close went monday morning to tell vet that the money was raise for surgery but he gave me the bad news the my dog had gangrene and her leg had to be amputated, I then ask to try to save it and he said he was going to do his best. My dog had surgery until 5-6 pm they save the leg.
Is it true that gangrene can come back???
Did my dog get gangrene because vet didn't clean the wound good??

Or is this normal???

Took dog right after accident.

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Sadie
Yorkshire Terrier
8 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargic

Medication Used

Antibiotics, pain med

My 8 month old Yorkie had FHO surgery Monday a week ago. She would not eat or have a bowel movement. I called vet and they said to bring her back and leave her couple days. I called today and they said the vet found some dead tissue around incision and was going to cut it off. He wanted her to stay so he can watch it. She still isn't eating much and no bowel movement. Is this normal?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
Dead tissue around the surgical wound is not usual, but may occur and the best course of action is to debride the wound and close it again with fresh wound margins; the lack of a bowel movement is concerning and may be due to discomfort in getting into a position to defecate, your Veterinarian may help with defecation and encouraging appetite when she is admitted. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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