Pet Cryo-Surgery

Cryo-Surgery is a surgical modality used to remove minor skin lesions, such as, sebaceous cysts, skin tags, warts and more by freezing them with liquid nitrogen or other cryogens. Cryo-surgery is used all the time by human dermatologists and other surgeons. We are now able to offer this service at Alta Rancho Pet & Bird Hospital in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Cryosurgery works by rapidly freezing cells which causes ice crystals to form within the cells. The ice crystals, break down normal cellular structures and cause the death of the cell. We use a device called the Cryo-AC gun which delivers liquid nitrogen at -272 degrees farenheit to the lesion. The lesion is frozen until an iceball forms on its surface. Then the lesion is allowed to thaw slowly and the process is repeated once or twice more.

Unlike routine surgery, the lesion is not removed at the time of surgery. It takes from 2-3 weeks after cryosurgery for the lesion to “fall off”.
Cryo-Surgery has some advantages over standard surgical techniques, which include:

  • No Anesthesia is required (although we do sedate our patients for this procedure)
  • Safer than standard surgery as there is no anesthesia.
  • Less costly than standard anesthesia
  • Minimal chance of wound separation (dehiscence)

Cryo-Surgery does have its limitations as well. No Pathology report is obtained because we do not take a sample of the lesion. This leaves the procedure available only for lesions we are pretty certain are benign.
There may be change in pigment at the site of the cryosurgery, meaning that pigmented skin may become unpigmented and unpigmented skin may become pigmented.

Whenever we find lumps and bumps on our pets, it is always best to send a sample in for biopsy. Biopsies allow us to see exactly what type of tumor we are dealing with, whether or not we got the entire tumor and what if anything needs to be done to prevent recurrence. In some instances, we may be able to decide that we can do without a biopsy and use cryosurgery instead of traditional surgery.

Types of lesions that are appropriate for Cryosurgery include:

Sebaceous Cysts


Skin Tags


Papillomas (warts)


Frequently Asked Questions about Cryosurgery:


Is Cryosurgery painful?

The cryo gun freezes the tissue very quickly which acts as it’s own anesthetic. However, when the lesion thaws, there can be some discomfort. We mitigate this discomfort by using a topical local anesthetic and by sending home anti inflammatory pain medication.

Will my pet leave the wound alone after cryosurgery?

Lesions that have undergone cryosurgery will become red and inflammed for the first few days after surgery. During this time, your pet may try to lick or scratch the wound. To prevent this, we recommend placing an elizabethan collar on your pet during the recovery time.

What happens if the lesion doesn’t go away?

In some cases, we may get only partial success in eliminating the entire lesion in one freezing session. If after 3 weeks, the lesion is not fully gone, we will repeat the process at a reduced fee.