Orthopedic Surgery for Dogs - A Pet Parent's Guide

Orthopedic issues in dogs can significantly impact your dog's mobility and overall quality of life. Today our Rochester vets will explore orthopedic surgery for dogs, how it can help your dog, what it entails, and what to expect before and after surgery.

What is orthopedic surgery in dogs?

Orthopedic surgery for dogs involves the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, such as bone fractures, joint disorders, ligament injuries, and spinal problems. These procedures are conducted by skilled veterinary surgeons with specialized training in orthopedics and are aimed at alleviating your dog's pain, restoring function, and improving the overall well-being of your four-legged family member.

What are some common orthopedic surgeries?

Orthopedic surgery is the use of surgical procedures to restore a canine limb to normal or near-normal function. Bone plates, pins or screws, nylon, casts, or an artificial joint can all be normal elements of these procedures. Dogs that are in otherwise good health are ideal candidates for orthopedic procedures such as bone and joint correction surgery. Pre-operative blood work and an overall canine analysis are required before surgery begins to reduce risks and help the procedure to be successful.

There are several different types of orthopedic surgery, including:

TPLO: The TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery has become one of the most commonly performed orthopedic surgeries on dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament, also known as the dog ACL.

MPL: The medial patellar luxation (MPL) surgery corrects the luxation, or "popping out" of the kneecap (called the patella). A luxating patella is caused by a congenital malformation that causes abnormal forces on the kneecap, causing it to slide out of its normal groove (called the patellar groove).

FHO: A femoral head osteotomy, or FHO, is the surgical removal of the femoral head and neck. In layman's terms, it is the removal of the "ball" portion of the ball-and-socket joint that comprises the hip joint.

THR: A total hip replacement (THR) is a surgical procedure that involves the replacement of the diseased cartilage and bone of the hip joint. These are then replaced with a prosthesis or “artificial joint”.

Lateral Suture: Essentially the concept for the surgery is very simple. To stabilize the knee on the outside of the joint by using a single fiber plastic line called a mono-filament. This very strong suture or line outside of the joint re-establishes the stability the joint needs when the ACL is torn.

TTA: A tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) is a surgical procedure used to repair a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). Unlike other procedures, the goal of this surgery is not to recreate or repair the ligament, but rather to change the dynamics of the knee so that the cranial cruciate ligament is no longer required for joint stability.

Cruciate: Cruciate surgery is used to repair a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the stifle (knee), which functions similarly to the ACL in humans. CCL surgery is the most common orthopedic surgery performed in dogs, accounting for approximately 85% of all orthopedic surgeries performed each year.

How effective are orthopedic surgeries?

Orthopedic surgery for dogs has proven to be highly effective in addressing a wide range of musculoskeletal issues. With advancements in veterinary medicine and specialized surgical techniques, these procedures have significantly improved the quality of life for many canine patients. Whether it's repairing ligament injuries, correcting fractures, or addressing joint disorders, orthopedic surgeries have shown remarkable success rates in alleviating pain, restoring mobility, and promoting healing.

What is recovery from orthopedic surgery like?

Orthopedic surgery generally necessitates a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period, with strict exercise restrictions lasting at least two weeks. After the first two weeks, your dog's activity can increase somewhat but will still need to be restricted and tightly controlled for four months or longer. To help speed your dog's recovery from orthopedic surgery, physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) may be recommended.

What post-operative care will my dog need after their orthopedic surgery?

As a pet parent, you play a key role in helping your furry friend to recover well after surgery. To help speed recovery, your dog will require attentive care:

Plenty of Rest

Rest and restricted activity will be essential to prevent complications and reduce the risk of re-injury. Limit your pup's movement and provide a quiet, safe space for them to rest and heal.

Administer Medications Only As Directed By Your Vet

Pain Management will be important for improving your pet's comfort as they recover from surgery. Administer prescribed pain medications and antibiotics as directed by your vet, to help keep your dog comfortable during recovery.

Keep An Eye On The Incision Site

Keep the surgical site clean and dry as per your vet's instructions. Watch for any signs of infection, or spots that may begin to reopen. Notify your veterinarian right away if you notice anything concerning. It is always better to treat potential issues right away, before they become more severe.

Physical Rehabilitation

Many pets benefit from physical rehabilitation following orthopedic surgery, which is essentially physio therapy for dogs. Your vet may recommend exercises or formal rehabilitation with a trained professional to aid your dog's recovery and improve their mobility.

Don't Skip Follow-up Visits

Follow-up appointments are an essential part of your dog's orthopedic surgery and should never be skipped. These post-op appointments allow your veterinarian to monitor your dog's healing process and address any issues quickly, before complications arise. Attend all follow-up appointments scheduled for your canine companion.

What can I do to prevent my dog from needing orthopedic surgery?

Many causes of bone and ligament surgery are related to unexpected injuries or hereditary joint conditions, so preventing the need for orthopedic surgery is important but can be challenging for pet owners.

To avoid fractures or bone breaks, basic canine safety precautions, such as providing a fenced-in yard and using a leash outside the home, are essential.

To prevent hereditary or congenital causes it will be necessary to put an end to dog breeding practices that perpetuate the problem. Purchasing pets only from humaine, reputable breeders is a good place to start. If you are looking for a new pet, ask your vet about breeders in your area that they feel follow stringent guidelines for caring for their dogs.

Spaying and neutering is the most effective form of treatment for canines with hereditary joint complications, such as hip or elbow dysplasia. These reproductive surgeries can help to prevent hereditary conditions from being passed down to another generation of dogs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Want to learn more about the orthopedic surgeries our experienced Rochester veterinarians regularly perform? Contact Ridgemont Animal Hospital today.