Soft Tissue Surgery Service

About the Service

The soft tissue surgery service specializes in the surgical treatment and management of a variety of diseases and conditions. A team of health care providers, including board-certified surgeons (faculty), surgical residents, surgical interns, veterinary technicians (nurses), and senior veterinary students work together to provide you and your pet with expert-level care while allowing clinical teaching of our students, interns, and residents. Our soft tissue surgery service provides consultation, diagnostic testing, surgical treatment, and post-surgical care for our patients while striving to achieve effective communication and support to you, regarding your pet’s condition. In addition to accepting scheduled appointments, the soft tissue surgery service provides surgical management for emergent cases admitted through the Emergency and Critical Care Service during both normal business and after-hours. We also provide in-house consultation and management for patients admitted through other services of our hospital as needed by the requesting service.

What We Do

Our soft tissue surgery service is equipped to manage an array of elective and advanced surgical diseases and conditions. At the time of your appointment, we will assess your pet’s health record, obtain an updated health history, and perform a physical examination on your pet. Following our evaluation, we will consult with you on the most appropriate diagnostic and medical and/or surgical treatment plan for your pet. We perform surgery on numerous body systems including but not limited to the skin and subcutaneous tissues, ears, oral cavity, upper airway, cardiothoracic, abdominal, gastrointestinal, reproductive and urinary systems. We also specialize in wound healing and reconstruction. Our team strives to offer advanced surgical techniques including experience with an array of laparoscopic procedures including laparoscopic ovariectomy (spay) and laparoscopic-assisted gastropexies.

Our surgeries are performed in one of our state-of-the-art operating rooms. Surgical procedures are performed by or under the direct guidance of one of our surgical faculty members. Your pet will be monitored throughout the procedure by an anesthesia team consisting of board-certified anesthesiologists (faculty), anesthesia residents, anesthesia technicians (nurses), and/or senior veterinary students. Your pet will recover in our care ward which is fully staffed 24/7. Treatments will be performed primarily by our veterinary nurses and veterinary assistants following direct recommendations from our surgical team. We offer a high level of compassionate care to be sure our patients are comfortable in the postoperative period and receive the necessary treatments to aide in their recovery. Typically, our surgical patients are hospitalized for a minimum of 1-3 nights post-operatively; however, hospitalization times vary and are determined on a case-by-case basis. Our surgical team will provide daily updates on the status of your pet and will provide you with postoperative care recommendations at the time of your pet’s discharge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to know before the appointment?

Please arrive approximately 10-15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to allow adequate time for check in. Please note that Auburn is in the central time zone. Please bring a list of any medications your pet is receiving, including the dose and frequency of administration. In general, we recommend continuing to administer all medications as previously prescribed by a veterinarian; however, if you have a question regarding if your pet should receive his/her medication prior to the appointment, please contact us directly. Additionally, please bring any medical records that were not previously sent to us by your primary care veterinarian.

In general, please withhold food after 10pm the night before your appointment but please note that water should always remain available. If your pet is a pediatric patient or has been diagnosed with an underlying condition that requires consistent feeding (diabetes, portosystemic liver shunt, etc.) please consult with someone from our team or your veterinarian prior to withholding food.

What should I expect at my appointment?

Upon arrival, please check in with our front desk. Following check in, a senior veterinary student and/or our veterinary nurse will meet you and obtain an up-to-date history on your pet. Your pet will then be taken to our soft tissue surgery treatment room to allow our team to perform a physical examination and determine the most appropriate diagnostic, medical, and/or surgical treatment plan for your pet. Following our evaluation, we will consult directly with you regarding recommendations for additional diagnostic testing/procedures, information about the surgical procedure and associated risks and complications. This process generally takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.

After we have consulted with you and gained consent for treatment of your pet, we often perform any additional diagnostic testing the day of your appointment. The results of these tests are generally finalized by the end of the business day. Depending on what additional diagnostic testing is needed, your pet may need to stay with us for most of the day while we perform and await test results to better guide our medical and surgical treatment plan. Once the results are finalized, we may consult with you over the phone or in person to determine the next best step for you and your pet.

If it is determined that my pet needs surgery, when will the surgery be performed?

For our elective surgeries including spays, neuters and gastropexies, surgery is often performed the same day as your appointment. For all other cases, please note that surgery is performed the day after your appointment. This allows our team time to consult with you as well as obtain any additional diagnostic testing prior to your pet undergoing anesthesia and surgery. When consent for surgery is obtained at the time of your appointment, your pet can either board with us overnight or return the following morning should you wish to take your pet home overnight. Please note that surgery can be scheduled for a later date if it is more convenient for you.

How long will my pet be in the hospital following surgery?

Typically, our surgical patients are hospitalized for a minimum of 1-3 nights post-operatively for most of our scheduled procedures; however, hospitalization times vary and are determined on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is to make sure your pet is comfortable and assure there are no immediate, life-threatening postoperative concerns or complications. Our surgical team will provide daily updates on the status of your pet and will let you know when your pet is ready to go home. We will provide you with postoperative care recommendations at the time of your pet’s discharge so that you can continue to provide at-home care for your pet during his/her recovery period.

Who We Are

Faculty/Specialists

Michael Tillson, DVM, MS, DACVS
Dr. Michael Tillson earned a Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina State University in 1983 and a second bachelor’s degree, in animal science, from North Carolina State University in 1984. He then completed a Master of Science degree at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from North Carolina State University. Dr. Tillson completed a small animal surgical residency at Kansas State University and served as a clinical instructor in small animal surgery at Washington State University prior to coming to Auburn. He joined the faculty at Auburn in 1995 as an assistant professor, and currently holds the Arthur and Louise Oriole Professor position within the college of veterinary medicine.

Katelyn C. Hlusko, DVM, MS, DACVS-SA
Dr. Katelyn Hlusko earned a Bachelor of Science degree in animal and nutritional sciences from West Virginia University in 2011 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Mississippi State University in 2015. After graduation, Dr. Hlusko went on to complete a one-year small animal rotating internship followed by a six-month small animal surgical internship at Auburn University in 2016 and 2017, respectively. She then continued her education at Auburn University and completed a small animal surgical residency and obtained a Master of Science degree in biomedical sciences in 2020. Following completion of her residency, Dr. Hlusko joined the faculty at Auburn as an assistant clinical professor in small animal surgery and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (Small Animal) in 2022.

Surgical Residents

Corinne Buirkle, VMD
Dr. Buirkle earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Maryland in 2012 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. She then completed a small animal rotating internship at The Animal Medical Center in New York City in 2017. Dr. Buirkle then went on to complete two small animal surgical internships at Louisiana State University and Auburn University in 2018 and 2019, respectively. She began her small animal surgical residency at Auburn in 2019.

Kaleigh Bush, DVM
Dr. Bush earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Auburn University in 2018. She then completed a small animal rotating internship at the University of Tennessee in 2019 followed by a small animal surgical internship at Auburn University in 2020. Dr. Bush began her small animal surgical residency at Auburn in 2020.

Jessica Ball, DVM
Dr. Ball earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from Western Kentucky University in 2015 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Auburn University in 2019. She then completed a small animal rotating internship at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Louisville, KY in 2020 followed by a small animal surgical internship at Auburn University in 2021. Dr. Ball began her small animal surgical residency at Auburn in 2021.

Surgical Intern

Haley Foster, DVM
Dr. Foster earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri in 2020. She then completed a small animal rotating internship at the University of Georgia in 2021. Dr. Foster began her small animal surgical internship at Auburn in 2021.

Veterinary Support Staff

Kellye Berkley, LVT, CCFP
Kellye earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Veterinary Health Technology from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2016. Upon completion of her degree, she was offered a 6-week veterinary externship through the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  She then joined the AUCVM full time as a rotating small animal technician in 2016. In 2020, Kellye transitioned to the soft tissue surgery department full time and currently serves as the service’s licensed veterinary technician.