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  • Writer's pictureVetMed Team

Sclerotherapy for Pets: How It Works, When It’s Used, and What to Expect

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment that has long been utilized in human medicine for conditions such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. As veterinary medicine continues to evolve, adopting techniques and technologies from the human medical sphere, sclerotherapy is gaining traction as a viable option for treating a variety of conditions in pets. This advancement comes with the overarching goal to provide more comfortable, effective, and less intrusive alternatives for our furry friends. This article aims to offer an in-depth understanding of sclerotherapy for pets—what it is, when it's used, and the benefits it brings to the field of veterinary medicine.

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Looking for a specific answer? Use our guide below to quickly navigate to your desired section:

What is Sclerotherapy for Pets?

When is Sclerotherapy Used?

Risks Associated With Sclerotherapy

Preoperative Diagnostics and Tests

How To Prepare Your Pet For Sclerotherapy

General Instructions for the Day of the Procedure

What Happens During a Sclerotherapy Procedure

Recovery and Management After a Sclerotherapy Procedure

Results & Follow-Up After a Sclerotherapy Procedure

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What is Sclerotherapy for Pets?

Sclerotherapy is a medical procedure that involves the injection of a chemical solution—known as a sclerosing agent—into vessels, typically veins, to cause intentional scarring and closure. The process begins with the isolation of the targeted vessel, followed by the careful injection of the sclerosing agent. The agent induces a localized inflammatory response, which results in the scarring and closing off of the vessel.

How It Works

The sclerosing agent essentially damages the inner lining of the vessel, promoting clot formation. Over time, this clot is replaced by fibrous tissue, causing the vessel to shrink and ultimately disappear. This technique reroutes the blood flow to healthier veins, restoring optimal circulatory function.

The Procedure

In pets, as in humans, sclerotherapy is often performed under ultrasound guidance to ensure precise delivery of the sclerosing agent. The pet is typically sedated to minimize stress and discomfort during the procedure. Once the targeted vessel is identified via ultrasound, a fine needle is used to administer the sclerosing agent. The procedure generally lasts between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the complexity and number of vessels involved.

Types of Sclerosing Agents

Different types of sclerosing agents can be employed, depending on the specific condition being treated. Some of the commonly used agents in veterinary medicine include:

  • Sodium tetradecyl sulfate

  • Polidocanol

  • Hypertonic saline

It's crucial to note that the choice of sclerosing agent may vary depending on the pet's overall health status, the type of vessel being treated, and other case-specific factors.

When is Sclerotherapy Used?

Sclerotherapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment; rather, its application is quite specific and depends on various medical conditions that your pet may be facing.

Renal Hematuria

Renal hematuria refers to the presence of blood in the urine originating from the kidneys. This condition can occur due to various underlying issues such as renal cysts, arteriovenous malformations, or even tumors.

The conventional approach to managing renal hematuria often involves surgical interventions that can be invasive, carry high risks of complications, and require prolonged recovery periods. Sclerotherapy offers a minimally invasive alternative that is less stressful for the pet and has fewer risks. The procedure involves injecting a sclerosing agent directly into the abnormal blood vessels or cystic structures within the kidney, causing them to collapse and subsequently be reabsorbed by the body. This can significantly reduce or completely eliminate the hematuria, providing both symptomatic relief and an improved quality of life for your pet.

Varicose Veins and Spider Veins

Just like in humans, older pets can also suffer from varicose veins, although it is less common. These are enlarged, twisted veins visible under the surface of the skin. Spider veins are smaller but similar. Sclerotherapy offers an efficient way to treat these conditions by closing off the problematic veins.


Hemangiomas are benign tumors of the blood vessels that can appear in dogs and, less frequently, in cats. While they are generally not harmful, they can pose a problem if they rupture and bleed. Sclerotherapy can be a useful treatment in these cases.


Lymphangiomas are benign malformations of the lymphatic system. While relatively rare, they can occur in pets and can lead to discomfort or complications if they rupture. Sclerotherapy provides a less invasive alternative to surgical removal.

Hydroceles and Spermatoceles

In male pets, fluid accumulation around the testicle (hydrocele) or in the epididymis (spermatocele) can occur. These conditions can be effectively managed using sclerotherapy, thus avoiding more invasive surgical options.

Cystic Lesions

Simple cysts in organs like the liver or kidney can sometimes be treated using sclerotherapy, especially if they are causing discomfort or functional impairment to the pet.

Preoperative Hemostasis

In some cases, sclerotherapy can be used preoperatively to reduce vascularity in highly vascular tumors, thereby minimizing the risk of bleeding during surgical removal.

While it offers numerous advantages, it's critical to consult with a qualified veterinary healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. With the correct approach, sclerotherapy can significantly improve the quality of life for many pets, aligning well with the veterinary field's ongoing commitment to excellence in animal care.

Risks Associated With Sclerotherapy

While sclerotherapy is considered a minimally invasive and generally safe procedure, it is crucial for pet owners to be aware of the potential risks and complications that may arise.

Allergic Reactions

The sclerosing agents used in the procedure can sometimes trigger allergic reactions. While rare, it's essential to be aware of this possibility. Signs of an allergic reaction include itching, hives, and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.


As with any procedure that involves penetrating the skin, there is always a risk of infection. Sterile technique is used to minimize this risk, but postoperative monitoring for signs of infection is crucial.


This is a condition where the vein becomes inflamed and possibly clotted after the procedure. If this occurs, further treatment may be required to manage the condition effectively.


Improper administration of the sclerosing agent can result in tissue damage surrounding the treatment area, potentially leading to ulcers.

Pigmentation Changes

After the procedure, the treated area may experience some discoloration. Although usually temporary, it may take several weeks or months for normal skin tone to return.

Incomplete Closure of the Vessel

Despite the high efficacy rates, there's always a chance that the treated vessel may not close entirely. This would necessitate additional treatment sessions.

Hematoma or Seroma Formation

Following the procedure, a pocket of blood (hematoma) or serous fluid (seroma) may form around the treated area. While often self-resolving, these may sometimes require drainage.

Systemic Effects

Although exceedingly rare, the sclerosing agent could potentially enter the systemic circulation, leading to more widespread effects. This could occur if the agent is accidentally injected into an artery instead of a vein.

Preoperative Diagnostics and Tests

Prior to sclerotherapy, various diagnostic tests and evaluations are typically carried out to ascertain the suitability of the procedure for a particular pet and to minimize associated risks.

Blood Tests

A complete blood count (CBC) and a chemistry panel are generally recommended to evaluate the pet's overall health status, liver and kidney function, and clotting ability.

Ultrasound Imaging

High-resolution ultrasound is often used to identify the exact location, size, and condition of the vessels that need treatment. This allows for precise targeting during the sclerotherapy procedure.

Allergy Testing

Given that allergic reactions to sclerosing agents are a potential risk, some veterinarians may opt for allergy testing, particularly if the pet has a known history of allergic reactions.

Radiography or CT scans

For more complex conditions, like internal cysts or vascular tumors, imaging techniques like X-rays or CT scans might be utilized for a detailed structural assessment.

Cardiac Evaluation

Although generally not required for routine sclerotherapy, pets with known cardiac conditions may undergo a cardiac evaluation, which could include an EKG or even an echocardiogram.

Consultation and Informed Consent

Finally, a thorough consultation with the pet owner is necessary to discuss the procedure, its risks and benefits, and other treatment alternatives. Informed consent should be obtained to proceed with the treatment plan.

A comprehensive preoperative diagnostic and evaluation phase ensures that potential risks are minimized and that the procedure is tailored to the specific needs of each pet.

How To Prepare Your Pet For Sclerotherapy

Proper preparation is key to ensuring that sclerotherapy is as smooth and effective as possible for your pet. Here's a structured guide outlining the steps you should take to prepare your pet for this procedure.

Step 1: Initial Consultation and Assessment

  • Schedule a consultation with a qualified veterinary healthcare professional experienced in sclerotherapy.

  • Discuss your pet's medical history, any current medications, and specific symptoms.

  • Undergo the recommended preoperative diagnostics and tests to evaluate the suitability of the procedure for your pet.

Step 2: Diet and Hydration

  • Consult your veterinarian about any dietary restrictions that may be required leading up to the procedure.

  • Typically, pets should be fasted for at least 8-12 hours prior to the procedure to minimize the risk of aspiration.

Step 3: Medication Adjustments

  • Speak with your veterinarian about any current medications your pet is taking.

  • Some medications, such as anticoagulants, may need to be adjusted or temporarily discontinued to minimize the risk of bleeding during the procedure.

Step 4: Preoperative Bath

  • Give your pet a gentle bath 24-48 hours before the procedure, unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian.

  • Ensure that the area where the procedure will be conducted is clean to minimize the risk of infection.

Step 5: Prepare for Sedation or Anesthesia

  • Discuss the type of sedation or anesthesia that will be used during the procedure.

  • Make sure you understand any potential side effects and what to look for post-procedure.

Step 6: Pack Essentials

  • Prepare a "go-bag" for your pet, including any comfort items like a familiar blanket or toy.

  • Also include essential items such as a leash, collar, and any postoperative medications that have already been prescribed.

Step 7: Preoperative Visit and Final Check

  • Bring your pet in for a preoperative visit as scheduled by your veterinarian.

  • This is usually a quick appointment for a final health check and to discuss last-minute details.

Step 8: Transportation

  • Arrange safe and comfortable transportation to and from the veterinary clinic.

  • Ensure that your pet is secure and calm during the journey.

Step 9: Arrival at the Veterinary Clinic

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled procedure to complete any necessary paperwork.

  • Follow the staff's instructions for preoperative preparation, which may include final weight measurements, vital signs, and possibly a preoperative photograph of the area to be treated.

Step 10: Emotional Support

  • Offer your pet emotional support and comfort before they are taken into the procedure room.

  • Use calm and soothing tones to minimize stress and anxiety.

Thorough preparation is crucial for the success of sclerotherapy in pets. Following these steps will not only ensure that your pet is adequately prepared but also help in achieving the optimal outcomes for this minimally invasive procedure. Always maintain open communication with your veterinary healthcare professional throughout the process for the best possible care for your pet.

General Instructions for the Day of the Procedure

Proper planning and adherence to guidelines on the day of the sclerotherapy procedure can significantly impact the overall success and safety of the treatment. Here are some general instructions designed to assist pet owners in navigating this crucial day.

1. Confirm Fasting Status

Double-check that your pet has been fasted for the required duration, as advised by your veterinarian. Generally, this is for a period of 8-12 hours before the procedure.

2. Administer Approved Medications Only

If your pet is on any medications that have been approved for administration on the morning of the procedure, give them as directed by your veterinarian. Ensure you follow specific instructions about food and water when administering these medications.

3. Last-Minute Hygiene

While you would have given your pet a bath in the preceding days, ensure that the specific area for the procedure is clean and free from debris. Do not apply any lotions or creams unless advised by your veterinarian.

4. Be Punctual

Aim to arrive at the veterinary clinic at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time of the procedure to allow time for any last-minute preparations or discussions.

5. Complete Paperwork

Upon arrival, there may be forms to fill out or preoperative assessments to complete. Ensure all paperwork is duly completed, and all your questions and concerns are addressed.

6. Final Consultation

Before the procedure, a final consultation with the veterinary healthcare professional will usually be conducted to go over the treatment plan and any last-minute details.

7. Personal Items

Leave your pet's comfort items like a blanket or toy, if approved, to help ease any anxiety during the sedation or anesthesia phase.

8. Stay Calm and Available

While it may be nerve-wracking, maintaining a calm demeanor can help your pet feel less stressed. Make sure you're available via phone for any urgent consults during the procedure.

9. Post-Operative Instructions

Once the procedure is completed, thoroughly go through the post-operative care guidelines with your veterinarian. These guidelines will usually include wound care, activity restrictions, and medication schedules.

10. Observation

Take note of your pet's condition upon discharge. Carefully observe for any signs of discomfort, allergic reactions, or complications as highlighted by your veterinarian.

11. Safe Transport Home

Make sure you have a comfortable and secure mode of transportation arranged for taking your pet back home. Special care should be taken if your pet is still groggy or disoriented due to sedation or anesthesia.

Preparing for the day of the sclerotherapy procedure can be a rigorous process, but adherence to these general instructions can significantly contribute to the efficacy and safety of the treatment. Open communication with your veterinary healthcare professional is vital, as instructions can vary depending on the specific needs of your pet. With proper planning and adherence to guidelines, you can contribute to making the procedure as smooth and stress-free as possible for both you and your pet.

What Happens During a Sclerotherapy Procedure

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the injection of a sclerosing agent into abnormal blood vessels or cysts to induce their collapse and eventual closure. The following is an overview detailing what happens during a typical sclerotherapy procedure for pets, helping pet owners understand each stage of this treatment.

Pre-Procedure Preparations

  • Patient Check-In: Upon arrival at the veterinary clinic, the patient is checked in, and any last-minute paperwork is completed. Vital signs may be taken at this point, and the pet is prepared for sedation or anesthesia, as previously discussed during the consultation phase.

  • Sedation or Anesthesia: Depending on the specifics of the procedure and the patient's needs, sedation or anesthesia is administered to ensure that the pet remains still and comfortable during the procedure.

Procedure Proper

  • Sterile Field Preparation: The specific area where the injections will be made is cleaned and sterilized to minimize the risk of infection. The veterinary healthcare professional may mark the area with a surgical marker to guide the injections.

  • Ultrasound Guidance: In some cases, ultrasound guidance may be employed to visualize the abnormal vessels or cysts accurately. This technology allows for more precise targeting, reducing the likelihood of complications.

  • Sclerosing Agent Injection: A fine needle is used to inject the sclerosing agent directly into the targeted vessels or cysts. Depending on the number and size of the targeted areas, multiple injections may be required. The sclerosing agent works by irritating the lining of the vessel or cyst, causing it to collapse and eventually be absorbed by the body.

  • Observation and Monitoring: Immediately after the injections, the area may be gently compressed using sterile gauze to aid in the collapse of the treated vessels. The pet is closely monitored for any immediate complications such as allergic reactions or excessive bleeding.

  • Secondary Ultrasound Check: In some instances, a second ultrasound may be performed to confirm the complete administration of the sclerosing agent into the targeted areas and to evaluate the immediate response.

Post-Procedure Care

  • Wound Dressing: After confirming the success of the injections, the treated area is usually dressed with a sterile bandage. Depending on the specifics of the case, an antibiotic ointment might also be applied.

  • Recovery from Sedation or Anesthesia: The pet is moved to a recovery area where they are monitored as they wake up from sedation or anesthesia. Vital signs are closely observed during this phase to ensure there are no adverse effects.

Recovery and Management After a Sclerotherapy Procedure

The post-procedure phase is crucial for the success of any surgical intervention, and sclerotherapy is no exception. A well-structured recovery and management plan can substantially improve both the short-term and long-term outcomes for your pet. This article outlines key components of the post-sclerotherapy phase.

1. Monitoring and Stabilization

Once the sclerotherapy is completed, your pet will be closely monitored as they recover from sedation or anesthesia. Vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation will be observed to ensure they are within normal limits.

2. Pain Management

Pain relief medication may be administered as needed to ensure your pet's comfort. The type and frequency of these medications will be tailored to your pet's specific needs and condition.

3. Wound Assessment

The injection sites will be examined for any signs of bleeding, infection, or other complications. A sterile dressing may be applied to these areas to promote healing.

4. Restricted Activity

Limit your pet's physical activity as directed by your veterinarian. Too much movement can hinder the healing process and increase the risk of complications.

5. Hydration and Nutrition

Resume water and food intake gradually, following the guidelines provided by your veterinarian. Monitor for any signs of gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea.

6. Medication Administration

If your pet has been prescribed antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications, ensure these are administered as directed. Missed doses can compromise the treatment's efficacy and lead to complications.

7. Follow-Up Appointments

Schedule and attend all follow-up appointments as recommended by your veterinarian. These visits are crucial for assessing the healing process and making any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

8. Ongoing Ultrasound Assessments

Periodic ultrasound examinations may be necessary to monitor the treated area and assess the long-term efficacy of the procedure.

9. Observation and Reporting

Keep a vigilant eye on the treated area for signs of redness, swelling, or discharge. Report any unusual symptoms to your veterinarian promptly.

10. Lifestyle Modifications

Depending on the underlying condition that necessitated the sclerotherapy, lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes or exercise regimens may be recommended for long-term management.

Post-procedure recovery and management are integral to the success of a sclerotherapy procedure. Adhering to your veterinarian's recommendations and guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of complications and promote a more rapid and effective healing process. A collaborative and communicative approach with your veterinary healthcare professional will ensure that your pet receives the best care possible during this important phase.

Results & Follow-Up After a Sclerotherapy Procedure

The long-term success of sclerotherapy largely hinges on diligent post-operative care and an effective follow-up regimen. The aim of this article is to guide pet owners through the crucial aspects of evaluating results and the importance of follow-up appointments post-sclerotherapy.

Assessing Immediate Results

  • Post-Operative Imaging: Your veterinarian may perform immediate post-procedure ultrasound imaging to assess the initial effectiveness of the sclerotherapy. This allows for the early identification of any areas that might require further treatment.

  • Clinical Signs: Initial results can often be observed through the reduction of symptoms. For example, a pet with varicose veins might experience less swelling and discomfort post-surgery.

Short-Term Follow-Up

  • First Follow-Up Appointment: The first follow-up appointment usually occurs within one to two weeks post-procedure. Your veterinarian will examine the treated area, assess wound healing, and potentially take additional images to gauge the treatment's effectiveness.

  • Medication Assessment: Your veterinarian will review the need for ongoing medication, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, during these visits. Any adverse reactions to medications should be promptly reported.

Long-Term Follow-Up

  • Subsequent Imaging Studies: Depending on the initial results and the complexity of the condition treated, your veterinarian may recommend periodic ultrasound evaluations for up to several months post-procedure.

  • Periodic Examinations: Regular veterinary check-ups should continue to include an assessment of the treated area. This ongoing evaluation helps to identify any potential recurrence of the condition and plan any necessary subsequent treatments.

Evaluating Results

  • Symptomatic Relief: One of the most direct indicators of the procedure's success is the alleviation of symptoms. Keep a record of any symptomatic changes and discuss these with your veterinarian during follow-up appointments.

  • Aesthetic and Functional Improvement: Besides symptom relief, sclerotherapy often offers cosmetic benefits and can improve the function of affected limbs or organs. Discuss any noticeable improvements with your veterinary healthcare professional.

When to Consider Repeat Procedures

  • Incomplete Resolution: If the initial treatment does not result in the desired outcome or if the condition recurs, your veterinarian may recommend a repeat procedure. The need for this will be determined through ongoing assessments and imaging studies.

  • New Onset of Symptoms: The appearance of new symptoms or affected areas warrants prompt veterinary evaluation and may necessitate further sclerotherapy or alternative treatments.

Following a sclerotherapy procedure, a well-structured plan for assessing results and conducting follow-up appointments is essential for achieving long-term success. Open and ongoing communication with your veterinary healthcare professional will ensure that your pet receives the most effective and comprehensive care. Whether through periodic imaging, symptom assessment, or medication reviews, the post-procedure phase is crucial in ensuring the highest quality of life for your pet.

VetMed Performs Sclerotherapy for Pets

At VetMed, located in Holladay, Utah, we're proud to offer sclerotherapy as part of our portfolio of specialized, minimally invasive veterinary procedures. Leveraging our state-of-the-art facilities, highly trained veterinary healthcare professionals, and a holistic approach to pet care, we provide a high standard of accuracy and comfort in sclerotherapy treatments. From comprehensive preoperative diagnostics to personalized post-operative recovery plans, we prioritize your pet's well-being at every step, affirming our commitment to setting new benchmarks in veterinary excellence. Choose VetMed for sclerotherapy and experience a level of pet healthcare that is a cut above the rest.


Questions You've Asked Us About Sclerotherapy for Pets

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What is sclerotherapy for pets?

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the injection of a sclerosing agent into abnormal blood vessels or cystic structures to make them shrink or collapse. The treated areas are subsequently reabsorbed by the body, alleviating symptoms associated with conditions like renal hematuria.

Is sclerotherapy painful for my pet?

How long will my pet take to recover after sclerotherapy?

Are there any risks associated with sclerotherapy?

How soon can I expect to see results after a sclerotherapy procedure?

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