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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. 

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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Arthroscopic Surgery Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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mixed/border collie/greyhound/ ??

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2.5 years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Moving Lameness/Lethargy/Depressed

Can Lupus (SLE) be diagnosed with a blood test? If so what blood test is available in South Africa?

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Lupus is not a disease that we typically see in dogs, although they do get other auto-immune and tick-borne diseases. It would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be going on with the lameness and lethargy. Once they have been able to see your dog, they will have a better idea as to what might be needed as far as testing, and they can discuss options with you. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

July 30, 2020

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Same

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Mastiff

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

We have an older Mastiff/Lab mix (100 lbs). Diagnosed with arthritis in his front elbow. X-ray shows no cartilage left. Would arthroscopic surgery be an option? What is the success rate with older/larger dogs? Should we try injected/localized pain relief instead? He's starting to struggle with walking across the living room.

Aug. 10, 2018

Same's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm not sure what the benefit of arthroscopic surgery would be for Same, but it may be worth having a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon to get their opinion on his situation, and to see what the most effective treatment might be. If you haven't seen an orthopedic specialist, your veterinarian can refer you.

Aug. 10, 2018

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Reggie

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Move Around Much

From an xray, my 5 year old black lab was diagnosed with a cranil curcial ligament disease. The three types of surgery explained to me all had large incisions on the effected leg. Is there a way to perform arthroscopic surgery on a dog if they have a "torn ACL" and possibly a torn meniscus? I was scared because they sedated him for the xray and it took him a while to come out of it.

Aug. 1, 2018

Reggie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

There aren't arthroscopic options for a torn ACL, to my knowledge. It is an extensive surgery, but tends to be curative for this injury, and since he is a young dog, would probably be the best option for him to be pain free.

Aug. 1, 2018

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Boss

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German Shepherd

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

I have seen 2 vets now for this issue. My 7 yr old German Shepherd has been limping, been told it’s a ligament in the right shoulder. First vet took X-rays didn’t see anything recommended arthroscopy. Second vet took X-rays recommended anti-inflammatory shots and rest, did nothing, then we gave a steroid shot which helped for about 8 months but he’s limping again. My question is should I go for an MRI or Arthroscopy

July 24, 2018

Boss' Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Those two tests give different information - if he seems to have changes on the x-rays, arthroscopy may be a better alternative. If it seems to be a tendon or ligament problem, an MRI may be more helpful. Since i'm not sure of the details, what might be a good idea with conflicting information would be to have an appointment with an orthopedic specialist (your veterinarian can refer you), and get their opinion on what the best next step would be.

July 24, 2018

My dog has similar problem. X ray ultrasound were normal. Why do mri since arthroscopy can be diagnostic tool and repair tissue? Why waste money on mri?

Sept. 5, 2018

Connie G.

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Dexx

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Mixed (Aussie?)

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping, Raising Leg.

I'm looking for a veterinary surgeon who can perform arthroscopic surgery to repair what we believe is a damaged meniscus associated with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. The ligament has been repaired, but it appears now the meniscus is damaged, and we do not want to put the dog through a full open-incision surgery for the meniscus.

June 7, 2018

Dexx's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

There are many specialist Orthopaedic Surgeons, however you haven’t mentioned which country you live in or even a city so it is difficult to give any recommendation or advice on finding a surgeon. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 8, 2018

Southern California...Ventura County. Thanks!

June 8, 2018

Dexx's Owner

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Rocky

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Golden Doodle

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6 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Limping On Left Leg

My golden doodle male pup 6 months has been limping from 4 weeks and vet did the X-Ray, turned out to be a OCD and recommend to see a specialist. Do you think he needs Arthroscopy? or treated with anti inflammatory drugs. He was on Rimadyl for 3 weeks. Thanks.