Everyday Hero: Veterinarian's lifetime of surgery innovation gets tail wags of approval

Dr. Timothy McCarthy has dedicated his life to protecting pets from pain. He even wrote the book on minimally-invasive surgery on animals. KATU photo

PORTLAND, Ore. – Dr. Timothy McCarthy has dedicated his life to protecting pets from pain. He even wrote the book on minimally-invasive surgery on animals.

He also gives his time and effort to help animals at a local organization that changes human lives for the better.

McCarthy has been on the forefront of endoscopic and laparoscopic veterinary procedures since the early 1980s. Back then, the surgical technique was almost unheard of for animals.

“I used to go to conferences and people would look at me like I was nuts,” he said.

But since then, things have changed quite a bit.

“In the last 10 years, it’s really exploded. It’s really kind of reached a momentum,” he said.

That’s because the minimally-invasive technique, where veterinarians diagnose and operate through small holes rather than big incisions, is much healthier than traditional surgeries.

Take, for example, a spay.

“The traditional technique where you have to tear the attachment to stretch it far enough to get it up to the incision and the abdominal wall,” McCarthy described.

That tearing causes trauma and pain for pets that can last for weeks. There’s a world of difference between the old way and a laparoscopic spay.

“You do a laparoscopic spay and you could take ‘em on a leash and run a marathon with ‘em the next day. I mean, we don’t recommend that, but still, they wake up like nothing ever happened,” McCarthy said.

The dramatic difference in pain and the decreased downtime is the message that McCarthy has taken across the globe. His reference book on animal laparoscopy has been translated to Russian and he’s taught veterinarians in 14 countries how to do an assortment of minimally-invasive treatments.

“I go to a foreign country and I always figure I learn more than I taught anybody, which is part of it that makes it fun,” he said.

He also shares his knowledge close to home at Guide Dogs for the Blind at the training facility in Boring. For them, minimally-invasive surgeries with shorter, less-painful recoveries, are crucial.

So, McCarthy called in some favors with the connections he’s made in more than 30 years of doing these surgeries.

“I thought, you know, this is a non-profit organization. I need to see if I can get the equipment donated,” he said.

He got the equipment, then he donated his time to teach the veterinarians in Boring and at the headquarters in California.

Now, guide dogs don’t need to take time off from training after they’re spayed. Instead, they’re back to training the next day.

“So, it was just a huge thing, particularly the trainers, and the handlers that take care of them. They thought this was just fantastic,” McCarthy said.

If pets around the world could talk, they’d probably thank him, too.

“I’m going to be 74 in January. But you know, I’m still going because doing those kinds of things is so rewarding and it feels so good,” he said.

Laparoscopic procedures in animals help people too.

Many minimally-invasive surgical techniques for humans were first developed for dogs and cats.

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