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Orthopedic Surgery for Dogs

Orthopedic surgeries are some of the most common reasons for vet visits. Treatments for osteoarthritis, fractures, or joint problems in dogs are usually divided into surgical and non-operative treatments. Surgical treatments can range from arthroscopic cleaning of a joint all the way up to total joint replacement. Tissue engineering (replacements of tissues) and cartilage grafts are also in current practice. Some of the most common surgeries are highlighted below. 

dogs and orthopedic proceduresSurgery for Broken Bones in Dogs

A wide range of procedures are available to treat canine bone fractures. These protocols often depend on the size, breed, and age of the animal. Simple (non-displaced) fractures can be repaired by external coaptation (ex. splints and casts). Compound and complicated (displaced) fractures generally require some form of internal fixation that use various types of hardware, such as plates, rods, nails, pins, wires, and screws for stabilization.

The purpose of the skeleton is for support and your dog loses this support when the fracture occurred. Fortunately, the body has the ability to heal the broken bone if conditions are proper. The purpose of the surgery is to reduce (align) the broken bone and stabilize (fix) the fragments. The stabilization is achieved with a stainless steel implant. The type of implant used will vary depending on the type of fracture. The risk of infection, nerve and blood vessel injury, and non-union of the bone increases exponentially with each surgery that is performed.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy in Dogs (TPLO)

Ligaments are strong, dense tissues in the skeletal system that connect the ends of two bones across a joint. Their function is to stabilize a joint. The most common knee injury in dogs is rupture of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL), also frequently referred to as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). According to Vet Surgery Central, more than 600,000 dogs in the U.S. have surgery a ruptured CCL every year. The CCL plays a critical role in stabilizing the stifle of a dog (known as the knee in humans) against front-to-back forces. It prevents the tibia from shifting in front of the femur, controls excessive internal rotation of the joint and hyperextension, and is the structure most commonly injured. 

Accordingly to Veterinary Partner, this is the procedure for a TPLO Surgery. "Before surgery, an x-ray of the stifle is taken to measure the angle at the top of the shin bone, called the tibial plateau angle.  The goal of the surgery is to reduce this angle so that dynamic joint instability (cranial tibial thrust) is eliminated.  This is usually accomplished by creating a post-surgical angle of between 4 and 10 degrees, an angle not much different than is found in the human knee.  In most cases the surgical procedure starts with an exploration of the inside of the stifle joint.  This can be done arthroscopically or with open joint surgery.  The purpose is to assess the meniscal cartilages for any possible damage.  Damaged cartilage must be removed if the dog is to regain normal pain-free function.  The TPLO procedure itself involves the use of a curved saw blade to make a curved cut on the inside, or medial, surface of the top of the tibia.  The cut top portion is then rotated to create the desired tibial plateau angle.  A stainless steel bone plate is then placed on the bone to hold the two pieces in their new alignment. 

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement in Dogs (TTA)

The TTA surgery is an alternative for the TPLO surgery and is known to have similar outcomes. TTA is a surgical procedure designed to correct deficient stifles. In a TTA, the tibia is cut and moved forward to create stability. The TTA surgery changes the angle of the bones within the dog’s knee joint, specifically the shape of the tibia. The new position of the bone is held into place with a bone plate. Many veterinarians consider this type of surgery to be less invasive than a TPLO, but with as a newer procedure, there is not as much experience or history supporting its outcomes.  

Hip Replacement in Dogs

In extreme cases, hip replacement in dogs is sometimes needed for relief of pain and disability caused by severe degenerative joint disease (due to hip dysplasia or fracture). Many dogs with arthritic hip joints seem to function normally. But, when a painful joint is replaced with an artificial joint, there is often a dramatic change in the dog's personality as well as a change in activity levels.

In a hip replacement, the ball and socket that make up the hip of the dog are replaced with prosthetic or artificial joint structures. In smaller dogs, sometimes a femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) is recommended instead of a total hip replacement. An FHO removes the ball portion of the hip so that there is no longer bone rubbing on bone in the diseased joint. 

This content is written by our Clinical Advisory Board for informational purposes only. It should not be viewed as an endorsement for any product or as a substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.