Cryosurgery for Dogs

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    What is Cryosurgery?

    Cryosurgery is a treatment in which extremely cold temperatures are used to kill living tissue on the skin. It is also dubbed cryotherapy due to the fact that it is not in fact a surgery and no cutting is involved. 

    It is not always the first line of treatment depending on the condition but is often reserved for patients whose anesthetic risk is deemed risky, such as elderly dogs or for skin conditions so minor that surgery would be too invasive. The procedure itself is temporarily painful but can be alleviated with a local anesthetic. Cryosurgery used to be more popular than it is now, and it is now available as a treatment option in first opinion clinics.

    What does Cryosurgery Treat?

    Cryosurgery aids in the treatment of tumors in unusual or inconvenient locations, such as areas where pets frequently scratch, pick at, or lick, as well as sensitive areas such as the mouth. It’s often used to treat:

    • ​​Cysts
    • Warts
    • Lesions
    • Masses

    How Does Cryosurgery Work?

    During cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen cooled to -127°F is applied to the affected area and it freezes the area by killing abnormal cells and therefore preventing future growth. A specialty vet will typically use liquid nitrogen or Argon gas, applied with special, ultra-thin cryoneedles, a cryoprobe, or a simple foam or cotton swab. After the liquid nitrogen is applied, the frozen growth then turns red and blisters. A scab then forms and falls off within 2-3 weeks.


    Tissue may liquefy and appear green and gangrenous in moist areas such as the mouth and anus. Typically, all that is required is gentle bathing of the area to remove as much dead and molting tissue as possible. The affected tissues occasionally emit a foul odor.


    Dogs can usually be awake during this procedure, at least with smaller growths. For larger growths, sedation and local anesthetic is required to keep the dog still. The procedure is uncomfortable. Despite how the frozen tissue appears after the procedure, there is no pain due to the anesthetic effect on nerve endings. 

    How Effective is Cryosurgery?

    Cryosurgery is highly effective depending on the growth and location. Certain growths, such as small warts and small skin tumors, can be resolved with one treatment. Because cryotherapy typically does not leave stitches, wounds, or scars, the dogs are less likely to lick, scratch, or bite at wounds and stitches and recover faster.

    How Much Does Cryosurgery Cost?

    The cost of cryosurgery varies depending on the size of the lesion, whether your veterinarian uses anesthesia and whether it is local or general, and the number of treatments your dog requires. Each treatment, including regular office visits, can cost between $100 and $300. The cost of anesthesia will rise depending on the type of anesthesia used and the size of your dog.

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