Has your dog been diagnosed with an issue requiring orthopedic surgery? Here, our Doraville veterinarians talk about what orthopedic surgery is, the different types of procedures that can be performed and how to help keep your dog comfortable while they recover.

What is orthopedic surgery in dogs?

Orthopedic surgery is any procedure that involves the bones, joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments or cartilage. The goal of orthopedic surgery is to treat conditions affecting your dog's skeletal system while improving their quality of life by easing pain, restoring function and improving range of motion.

What is orthopedic surgery used to treat?

Orthopedic surgery is commonly used for dogs who have broken or fractured a bone as a result of trauma or have a congenital condition affecting the joint. Your dog may be referred to a veterinarian or orthopedic surgeon who is trained and equipped with the necessary tools.

What are the different types of orthopedic surgery?

Generally, orthopedic surgery uses bone plates, pins or screws, nylon, casts, or an artificial joint to treat the affected area. In good health, dogs are excellent candidates for orthopedic procedures such as bone and joint correction surgery. A successful surgery necessitates pre-operative blood work and an overall examination.

Some of the different types of orthopedic surgeries are:

TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy): This surgery has become one of the most commonly performed orthopedic surgeries on dogs who have torn their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), also known as the dog ACL.

MPL (medial patellar luxation): This procedure 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 (femoral head osteotomy): This 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 (total hip replacement): This 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 (tibial tuberosity advancement): This is a surgical procedure used to repair a torn 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 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.

Recovery After Veterinary Orthopedic Surgery

Following orthopedic surgery, there is a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period, with exercise restrictions lasting at least two weeks. Following the first two weeks, the dog's activity will be limited to four months, and physical therapy may be advised.

Some of the key ways that you can help your dog during their recovery include:

  • Following your vet's post-operative instructions
  • Managing your pet's pain
  • Keeping your dog or cat comfortable
  • Restricting your pet's movement to prevent complications
  • Caring for the incision site

Typical Recovery Times Following Orthopedic Surgery

The length of time required for your pup to recover from an orthopedic surgery will depend on several factors, including the type of surgery, your dog's age, general health and rehabilitation needs. 

Many orthopedic surgeries will be largely healed about two or three months after the procedure, however, it can take up to six months for your dog to fully recover. 

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

Many causes of bone issues are related to unexpected injury or hereditary joint conditions, so preventing the need for orthopedic surgery is important for pet owners.

Basic canine safety precautions, such as providing a fenced-in yard and using a leash outside the home, are critical to avoiding fractures or bone breaks. The only way to prevent hereditary or congenital causes is to halt all reproductive practices in canines known to be affected by the condition (s). Canines with hereditary joint complications, such as hip or elbow dysplasia, benefit most from spaying and neutering.

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.

Is your dog showing signs of pain or discomfort pointing to an orthopedic issue? Contact our Doraville vets today to schedule an examination.