Small Animal Surgery DL
Soft Tissue Year 2 - 2022

Small Animal Surgery DL - Soft Tissue Year

An in-depth and practical modular Small Animal Surgery program focused on Soft Tissue Surgery.

The Soft Tissue Year is Year Two of the fully accredited GPCert SAS program, for those who have completed the Ortho Year in 2021.*

This intensive Soft Tissue Surgery year has been developed by a team of surgical specialists in new innovative learning format. The year long program is made up of 13 modules, incorporating a combination of blended learning – with online monthly theory modules and conclusion with a full week of practical modules, in wetlab facilities.

Eight online theory modules focus on developing your skills and knowledge in  complex soft tissue surgeries. Theory content is presented in an engaging and interactive online format on the innovative online platform. Each theory module is supported by a registered European/UK surgical specialist – available online for questions, case advice and to promote lively debate on interesting surgical topics! 

Five full practical modular days consolidate your knowledge, working with Australia Specialist Surgeons and Specialist Tutors to embed new skills, practice all techniques and become fully confident in new procedures.

Each practical wetlab has a day-long focus on the topics, including reconstructive skin surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, urological & urological surgeries and head, neck & thoracic surgeries.

SAS Soft Tissue will give you the opportunity to gain relevant clinical skills and work towards post-nominal qualifications, all under the guidance of world-class surgical specialists. 

*this one year option is only available to delegates in Ortho Year 2021. The full 2 year SAS DL program is for those who have not completed year 1.

Course Highlights

Small Animal Surgery DL

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Small Animal Surgery - The Soft Tissue Year Improve International Australia

Approved by RACE

Small Animal Surgery DL Modules

Module 1: Surgical Basics: asepsis, instrumentation, operative techniques and wound healing

Key learning objectives:

  • Revise asepsis, sterilisation and appropriate antibiosis for surgical cases
  • Expand your knowledge of instrumentation and instrument handling
  • Become more familiar with the uses of suture, needles, staples and clips
  • Understand the principles of wound healing and how this applies to your clinical cases
  • Re-visit the principles of wound management and get up-to-date with what is available now

Module 2: Urinary and reproductive tract surgery

Key learning objectives:

  • Develop your skills in managing renal surgery
  • Extend your knowledge of obstructive diseases of the urinary tract from ureters to urethra to enhance your day-to-day management of urolithiasis
  • Improve your awareness of the myriad of surgical options for urinary incontinence that are available now including colposuspension, TVT and urethral occluders
  • Advance your familiarity of surgery of the male reproductive system – from prostatic omentalisation to penile and preputial procedures
  • Extend the range of procedures you can offer for the female reproductive system beyond ovariectomy and ovariohysterectomy

Module 3: Upper gastrointestinal surgery

Key learning objectives:

  • Become familiar with the surgical approaches to salivary gland disease
  • Consider oesophageal disease and when surgery may be appropriate
  • Gastrotomy and gastrectomy: there is more to surgery of the stomach than just GDV
  • Advance your knowledge of small intestinal disease and how your decision-making can reduce complications
  • Review and revise ruptures and hernias

Module 4: Lower gastrointestinal surgery, liver, spleen and pancreas

Key learning objectives:

  • Improve your knowledge of large intestinal surgery and the differences between cats and dogs
  • Familiarise yourself with surgical approaches to the rectum and anus
  • Explore the options for liver surgery – suture, staples or electrosurgery
  • Review biliary tract surgery – anatomy and surgical options
  • Consolidate your knowledge of pancreatic surgery
  • Splenectomy – does it need removing and if so, which technique and what are the alternatives to removal?

Module 5: Oral, pharyngeal and aural surgery

Key learning objectives:

  • Become secure doing surgery of the lips, cheeks and tongue
  • Improve your approach to surgical treatment of palatal abnormalities
  • Maxillectomy and mandibulectomy: when and where to cut
  • Become more familiar with pharyngeal surgery and your options for tonsillar surgery
  • Make a considered choice for your patients between lateral wall resection, vertical canal ablation, ventral bulla osteotomy and total canal ablation/lateral bulla osteotomy
  • Revise the options for surgical treatment of aural haematoma

Module 6: Surgery of the upper airways, larynx and trachea

Key learning objectives:

  • Revise conditions of the nasal planum of the young and old to guide you when to operate
  • The nasal sinuses – when does surgical access become necessary?
  • Brachycephalic airway disease – a myriad of abnormalities
  • Perfect your knowledge of the larynx to allow you to successfully treat a wide variety of surgical conditions – paralysis, collapse, trauma, stenosis and neoplasia
  • Familiarise yourself with tracheotomy, tracheostomy, tracheal avulsion, collapse, resection/anastomosis, trauma, foreign bodies and neoplasia

Module 7: Surgery of the abdominal and thoracic cavities

Key learning objectives:

  • Perfect your approach to peritonitis by going into the detail of the pathophysiology, clinical signs, diagnosis and treatment options
  • By the end of this module you will have discovered the thrills of thoracic surgery and maybe even have answered some big questions:
    • Big dog / little dog: who wins?
    • Thoracostomy for pneumothorax, pyothorax and chylothorax – which tube?
    • Thoracotomy – which side and which rib space?
    • Lung Lobectomy – how many lobes can you take?
    • PDA –is this still a surgical condition?
    • Pericardectomy – how much should you take?
    • PRAA – why does a regurgitating patient need a thoracotomy?
    • Chylothorax – can you find the thoracic duct?
    • Chest wall diseases – how far can you advance the diaphragm?

Module 8: Surgical oncology

Key learning objectives:

  • Revise the underlying principles of oncologic surgery to inform your surgical approaches to the most common tumours seen in practice
  • Bring yourself up-to-date on all the treatment options for mast cell tumours
  • Become comfortable with maxillectomy and mandibulectomy so you can approach oral tumours with more confidence
  • Familiarise yourself with gastrointestinal tumours so you can optimise your patient’s outcome
  • Recognise the differences between dogs and cats by learning about feline-specific tumours

Module 9: Reconstructive skin surgery – practical session

Key learning objectives:

  • Become familiar with tension relieving techniques, performing undermining, tension-relieving sutures and relaxing incisions
    • Tension relieving sutures: walking sutures, bolster/stent sutures and continuous pre-tensioning sutures
    • Relaxing incisions: multiple punctate relaxing incision, simple relaxing incision, Z-plasty and V-Y plasty
  • Close different shaped wounds with confidence, including dog ears, triangular, circular/crescent and rectangular/quadrangular
  • Practise subdermal plexus flaps, namely advancement flaps, rotation flaps, transposition flaps and interpolation flaps
  • Practise axial pattern flaps, including thoracodorsal flaps and caudal superficial epigastric flaps
  • Recall the different skin graft options and execute full-thickness meshed skin graft and pinch and punch graft

Module 10: Gastrointestinal surgery – practical session

Key learning objectives:

  • Correctly place a tube in the oesophagus
  • Approach the cervical oesophagus and recognise its anatomical features
  • Recognise the possibilities for oesophageal surgery and perform an oesophagotomy/oesophagectomy
  • Correctly place a tube for gastrotomy
  • Execute a gastrotomy/gastrectomy
  • Perform an incisional gastropexy
  • Recall the indications for intestinal biopsies and apply the correct method
  • Apply intestinal surgery techniques, namely enterotomy/enterectomy

Module 11: Urological surgery – practical session

Key learning objectives:

  • Recognise the urological structures with relevance for surgical procedures
  • Execute a nephrectomy/nephrotomy
  • Confidently get samples from renal biopsies
  • Recall the key points to correctly place a tube for cystotomy
  • Perform a cystotomy/cystectomy
  • Apply the theoretical knowledge to perform, step by step, a prescrotal urethrostomy in a dog and a perineal urethrostomy in a cat
  • Practise urohydropulsion

Module 12: Head and neck surgery – practical session

Key learning objectives:

  • Put into practice the theoretical knowledge of ear surgery, performing a total ear canal ablation, a lateral bulla osteotomy and a ventral bulla osteotomy
  • Perform a lateral approach to the larynx and locate the relevant structures for the tie-back technique
  • Recognise all the steps of unilateral arytenoid lateralisation by watching its demonstration
  • Perform a modified extracapsular thyroidectomy
  • Execute a mandibular and sublingual sialadenectomy

Module 13: Thoracic surgery – practical session

Key learning objectives:

  • Perform a lateral intercostal thoracotomy
  • Execute a median sternotomy
  • Perform a total lung lobectomy
  • Recognise all the steps of a pericardiectomy and practise a partial pericardiectomy
  • Place a drain in the thoracic cavity for thoracocentesis
  • Place a drain in the abdominal cavity

Course Speakers



Dr Jane Ladlow MA VetMB CertSAS CertVR MRCVS

Dr Jane Ladlow MA VetMB CertSAS CertVR MRCVS

Dr Jonathan Bell BVM&S CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS

Dr Jonathan Bell BVM&S CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS

Dr Kelly Blacklock BVM&S DipECVS FHEA PGCert MRCVS

Dr Kelly Blacklock BVM&S DipECVS FHEA PGCert MRCVS

Dr Pieter Nelissen DVM CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS

Dr Pieter Nelissen DVM CertSAS DipECVS MRCVS

Dr Rachel Burrow BVetMed CertSAS CertVR DipECVS MRCVS RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue)BVetMed CertSAS CertVR DipECVS MRCVS RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue)

Dr Rachel Burrow BVetMed CertSAS CertVR DipECVS MRCVS RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue)BVetMed CertSAS CertVR DipECVS MRCVS RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Surgery (Soft Tissue)

Dr Samantha Woods BSc MA VetMB CertSAS Dipl.ECVS MRCVS

Dr Samantha Woods BSc MA VetMB CertSAS Dipl.ECVS MRCVS


What are the entry requirements for this program?

It is recommended you have a minimum of 1 year clinical experience to register in the GPCert SAS programs.

The Soft Tissue Surgery 2020 is Year 2 of the GPCertSAS, with the Ortho Surgery 2021 being Year 1.

It is most beneficial to practitioners who have had some significant surgical experience and are in a busy clinical practice. Please contact the Improve Team directly if you wish to discuss your suitability.

If you are interested in the full GPCertSAS Program (and have not completed the Ortho Year in 2021) the full Two Year SAS 2022-23 Program will be available. 

How many CPD Points this Program is accredited for?

With the online program format and week long practical sessions,  the SAS Soft Tissue Year  is accredited for 124 RACE approved credit points

How long is the Program in 2022?

The SAS Soft Tissue Year starts online in February 2022 and the program is scheduled to run until January 2023. The final modules 9-13 are all practical modules and are held in a week long block at the end of the Program year. 

Please be aware if the COVID situation in Australia changes, this may alter the schedule.

How many hours per week will I have to spend on the program?

You will spend on average 3-4 hours per week. Preparation of assessments and revising for the final exam is additional depending on your route.   

When is the learning content available for each module?

The content for this program will be available through the online learning platform Moodle.

At the beginning of each month, the content for weeks 1 and 2 will be released. At the beginning of the 3rd week, the remaining content will be released.

There are 2 ‘break months’ built into the program schedule – for catchup and work through. 

How can I track my progress in the program?

Progress of the completion of your module and program are tracked in different ways.

Each module consists of 9 interactive lessons including reflective study which may involve case studies, MCQ writing and calculation practice during week 4, depending on the specific module. The interactive lessons will track and remember your progress whilst you complete it. When you return to a specific lesson or case study, you will return to the page that you last visited.

Once a lesson is completed, a tick will appear next to the lesson icon on the module course page. You will also see a progress indicator at the top right-hand corner of the course page and a more detailed Progress Bar in the collapsible side menu on the left.

Upon completing all 9 lessons and the 2 case studies, you will be awarded a Digital Badge, recognising your achievement. As you progress through the program, badges will be awarded at 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 completion stages.

I am interested in gaining further qualifications - will this program help me with that?

The SAS two year program has previously been accredited as a General Practitioner Cert Small Animal Surgery accredited program. The GPCert SAS qualification is achieved by completing an accredited training program, registering with the International School of Veterinary Post-Graduate Studies and completing their requirements for assessment, including final online examinations. Please see full details here.

Is the Soft Tissue Year part of an accredited GPCert SAS program?

Currently, the Soft Tissue Year is Year 2 of the accredited GPCert SAS training program for 2021/22, by the International School of Veterinary Post Graduate Studies.


How do I find out more about the GPCert. in Surgery?

Here is a link to the ISVPS website

Further information on the requirements of the GPCert SAS can be found here or on the page on our website here.

ISVPS communicates with all delegates in the program to provide the details of registration for the Certificate and communications on ISVPS assessments.

Is the General Practitioner Certificate (GPCert) all online?

No, the full program to achieve the GPCert has a blended format.

The Soft Tissue Year has all theory online with the exception of the five compulsory practical modules.

What about the ANZCVS Memberships in Small Animal Surgery - will this program help me with that?

This program completes the learning objectives of the GPCert SAS syllabus and is not intended to fully cover the ANZCVS Membership requirements. The program will provide a solid clinical and practical knowledge that will definitely benefit those undertaking further study in small animal surgery and a number of our program participants have used it for preparation.


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