Local Anesthesia For Dog And Cat Growth Removal

Sheri writes: My cat has a cyst just under his left ear. It started out as a lump, and has grown to be a dangling sac. I want this thing gone. The veterinarian says it’s fine to stay, and the issue is that he can’t be put under because of his heart murmur. Is the procedure different in animals than in humans? I am a technician, working for a physician who delegates small mass removals to us. Every cyst removal I have ever done on a human was performed under local anesthesia. Can that not be done with a cat? Holding him is not an issue, he is a very calm cat and I’m sure I can hold him while she injects him with the local. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Older cats sometimes need surgery, too.

Sheri, as I see it you have four options:

One, you could just leave it alone. If your veterinarian has determined it isn’t harmful, and she is concerned about surgical stress for your kitty, that sounds like the safest route. You must also consider that local anesthesia doesn’t eliminate stress. If he becomes agitated during the procedure there will be strain on the heart.

Two, your pet’s doctor may be uncomfortable with local anesthesia simply because it not the first mode of anesthesia veterinary general practitioners think of. We have a tendency to administer sedation or general anesthesia to all of our patients, mainly because they have a tendency to squirm. Humans, of course, can be told to be still, but telling pets things doesn’t yield much result. If you haven’t asked her about using a local with a light sedative to perform the procedure, ask. She might be willing.

Third, you could ask for a referral to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. As a group, they frequently remove masses for histopathology, and would likely be willing to remove this one with a local.

Fourth, a board-certified veterinary general surgeon would be just as comfortable as most dermatologists with using local anesthesia to remove the growth.

As for holding him yourself, don’t be offended when your pet’s doctor asks you to leave that task to her staff. It’s a matter of liability and your safety.

MyPetsDoctor.com readers and I will be interested in knowing which route you choose.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.


  1. I have an almost 14 year old Yorkie, Sammy. Despite having pancreatitis and elevated liver enzymes since he was 8, the vet says he is incredibly healthy and spry.

    Sammy has bad teeth due to eating canned Science Diet ID for years. However, vets have always told me it wasn’t bad enough to risk anesthesia due to his existing conditions.

    Recently, I took him in to have a new growth checked, and the vet took a look inside his mouth. She asked if I noticed his front teeth were loose. She suggested we do general anesthesia and remove the teeth, perform a dental cleaning, and remove the growths, all at once.

    She also said we could simply remove the grows under light sedation and local if I felt more comfortable.

    I have no idea how to go about making this decision! For years I’ve been told not to risk anesthesia and now I’m assuming it’s gotten “bad enough” to outweigh the risks.

    Do I handle the growths with local now and worry about the teeth later? Or take care of it all now and risk losing my “spry” little guy?

    • Anesthesia is a judgment call in every case, at age 14 weeks, 14 months or 14 years. And, your veterinarian doesn’t want to lose your “spry little guy” any more than you do. It hurts when we lose a patient, and there is extra hurt when that patient succumbs while under anesthesia. I don’t have enough information to guide you, but I can give you some observations and points to think about. One, have you discussed your anesthesia concerns with the doctor and has she told you how she will minimize risk? Two, how recent are Sammy’s preanesthesia laboratory tests, and did everything show good other than his pancreas? Three, you might consider growth removal with sedation and local and see how he fares, then, if all goes well, consider anesthesia for his dental care later. Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat, and you get to make the final decision(s). Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

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