Pet Bladder Surgery (Cystotomy)

Woman with her dogA cystotomy is an abdominal surgery to gain access into the bladder. It’s done to address a bladder problem, such as a tumor, blood clot or bladder stones. Cystotomies are often considered exploratory surgeries and are often used when other methods cannot treat the problem or when routine diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds and x-rays cannot determine what’s causing the problem.

We might also perform a cystotomy if we need to obtain a biopsy sample of the bladder. This can be the only way to determine if a tumor detected through an ultrasound is malignant.

Finally, a cystotomy can be used to repair certain types of trauma to the bladder, such as a ruptured bladder as the result of an accident.

How is the Surgery Performed?

Cystotomies require general anesthesia, so we will require certain medical tests before the day of surgery. These tests — including a full blood panel, a urinalysis, urine culture and sometimes an ultrasound or x-rays — are used to determine the overall health of your pet. This in turn helps us decide whether additional precautions need to be taken during the surgery. It also gives us a general idea of how well and how quickly your pet will recover from the surgery. This is especially important for older or ill pets, as they might need special care during the pet bladder surgery and in the recovery period.

The entire surgical process often takes as little as one hour, including the time needed to prepare and wait for the anesthetic to take effect. The actual surgery requires an incision into the caudal abdomen, similar to the one a female receives when being spayed. Once the bladder is located, we can then remove stones, perform a biopsy, remove a tumor, repair the injured area, and address anything else that requires attention.

Any internal incisions are then closed using dissolvable stitches. The exterior (skin) incision is closed using either dissolvable sutures or in some cases surgical staples or non-dissolvable sutures. These types of stitches will need to be removed about two weeks after the surgery. Your pet will likely need to wear an E-collar during this period if he starts to lick the incision or pull on the sutures.

Most pets also require the insertion of a urinary catheter during the surgery. This can be removed 2-3 days after the surgery. To ensure your pet is under supervision at all times, we recommend that he stays at the hospital until the catheter is removed. Some pets might need to stay longer if they are not recovering as quickly as expected. Pets that are feeling well and can go home should remain in a crate whenever possible to ensure that they don’t move around too much and accidentally reopen the incision.

Painkillers and antibiotics are usually prescribed to help your pet recover faster and to avoid any discomfort. Most pets feel relatively back to normal within a few days to a couple weeks after the surgery.

Is a Cystotomy Dangerous?

Like with any surgery that requires general anesthesia, risks are always present. Aside from the risk of anesthesia, there’s also the risk of bleeding and urine leakage during or after the surgery. Although rare, an infection or the reopening of the wound might require additional surgery or treatment. We take every precaution and use top-of-the-line equipment to ensure your pet’s safety, so the overall risk remains low.

If you are worried about potential complications or risks, please talk to us before you schedule the surgical appointment. He will be able to answer any questions you might have and help you figure out the best course of action to ensure the surgery and the recovery after are as smooth as possible.