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What is Arthroscopic Surgery?

Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to explore, examine, and treat the joints of a dog. It can be used for diagnostic purposes also, especially if x-rays have not revealed the cause of joint issues. An arthroscopic camera is inserted into the dog through a small portal incision for visualization. 

Other incisions may be made for various surgical tools to be used on the joint. The stifle (knee) joint is most commonly operated on, but the elbows, shoulders and intertarsal joints may also be treated with arthroscopic surgery. An ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon should be used to perform this procedure. 

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Arthroscopic Surgery Procedure in Dogs

To determine whether the dog will be able to withstand surgery, blood work will need to be run. This will reveal its overall health and indicate whether the animal will be able to survive anesthesia. If surgery is deemed appropriate, the surgeon will plan the procedure. It is usually necessary for the dog to fast for several hours prior to the operation beginning.

To begin the surgery, the area of the affected joint will be shaved. Then, small portal incisions will be made. An arthroscopic camera will be inserted through one of these portal incisions. Tools for tissue or bone removal can then be placed in the other portal incisions. Tools used for this surgery include forceps or a power shaver. If any osteochondral fragments are found during the procedure, they will need to be removed. If defects exist that diminish blood supply, they will need to be corrected at this point. The incisions may be stitched shut upon the removal of the camera and tools. 

Efficacy of Arthroscopic Surgery in Dogs

Arthroscopic surgery carries a very high success rate. This is due to the minimal impact that it has on the body. Less scar tissue is created than from full incision procedures. This leads to better joint movement after the dog has healed. Smaller portal incisions also lead to much faster recovery times. The alternative to arthroscopic surgery is routine joint surgery, which is far more invasive to the body and much more susceptible to infection.

Arthroscopic Surgery Recovery in Dogs

The dog will need to be closely monitored as it wakes up from the general anesthesia. As it regains consciousness, pain medication should be administered. A prescription for oral pain management may be given for several days upon discharge. Once the animal is home, the incision site will need to be checked daily for signs of infection. 

An Elizabethan collar may be used to prevent the dog from licking or biting at its incisions. The dog's activity should be limited throughout the healing process. A follow-up appointment will be needed two weeks after the operation to assess healing. If the surgery was for diagnostic purposes, a treatment regime may be initiated at this appointment.

Cost of Arthroscopic Surgery in Dogs

The cost of arthroscopic surgery can range from $1,500 to $4,000. The need for specialized equipment generally results in a higher cost. A surgeon who has received extra training for performing these types of surgeries is also necessary. The base cost for regular joint surgery may be lower, but the procedure will often result in an overall higher bill. This is because arthroscopic surgery is linked to shorter hospital stays, less need for diagnostic imaging, and less complicated recovery. 

Dog Arthroscopic Surgery Considerations

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with the use of general anesthesia. Healthy dogs tend to do better than dogs with other diseases. If certain rare issues are discovered during arthroscopic surgery, a second incisional surgery may be deemed necessary. 

In most cases, fluid will leak from the affected joint, resulting in swelling after the surgery has been performed. This generally resolves on its own within a week. The surgical site may become infected, although this is extremely uncommon with small portal incisions. This surgery is associated with lower pain and risk than its alternatives. Most dogs receive a good outcome from the surgery.

Arthroscopic Surgery Prevention in Dogs

Most dogs that need arthroscopic surgery suffer from juvenile bone disease. These diseases are most often hereditary, but can be exacerbated by diet or excessive exercise. Be sure to provide your dog with a species-appropriate, high quality diet. Do not give large breed puppies dog food that promotes fast growth, as this can lead to both bone and joint problems. Prevent vigorous play or jumping. Monitor your puppy's movement for potential problems. Early identification can lead to better outcomes for your dog. 

Arthroscopic Surgery Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Australian Shepherd
6 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


My Aussie right front should joint needs scoped out. The ball joint doesn’t seat in the joint. He limps on it all the time. I need recommendations on where to take him for a surgery opinion. I live in Birmingham, AL.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
In Birmingham, AL I only know of Veterinary Surgery of Birmingham which deal with small animal orthopaedics; I’ve placed a link to their website below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Springer spanie
3 and a half
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hurt his leg with a stick and i

He has had an x ray and there are bone chips. This was 4 months ago. If he excercises too much he limps. Will an arthroscopy help get him back to normal? Or will he be loke this for ever??

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2485 Recommendations
It sounds like Cymro has OCD with either bone flaps or joint mice; surgery is the treatment of choice and should be discussed with your Veterinarian. There are no long term medical management options, just pain management before surgery; I would highly recommend the surgery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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