The surgical and medical records of 67 dogs and nine cats which underwent median sternotomy over a five-year period were reviewed. The indication for median sternotomy and the short and longer term complications were recorded. Twenty-six of the dogs died or were euthanased within 48 hours of the surgery as a consequence of the pre-existing disease or complications of the intrathoracic surgical procedure. A further four dogs were enthanased between 48 hours and 14 days following confirmation of neoplastic processes. Thirty-seven dogs were alive at 14 days; of these, seven dogs (19 per cent) experienced short-term wound complications, including haemorrhage, wound infection, thoracic limb neurological deficits and excessive postoperative discomfort. Of the 37 dogs alive for longer term follow-up, eight dogs (22 per cent) experienced wound complications, including haemorrhage, sternal fracture, sternal osteomyelitis and delayed wound healing. No complications were noted in the cats.