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Various issues can leave a dog with severely deformed and angled limbs. A surgical procedure known as a corrective osteotomy can be performed to alleviate deformed leg bones. These procedures are more effective if done on a young dog, before arthritis and other aging problems have set in. If left untreated, the deformity will result in severe pain and even lameness in the animal.
To help lengthen the limb, an entire portion of one of the bones must be removed. In older dogs, stabilization using metal implants is also needed in addition to bone removal. Sometimes this surgery is also paired with the reconstruction of the elbow. It should only be attempted by an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon who specializes in surgeries of the limbs.
Before surgery can be booked, the dog will have to have blood samples taken for testing. These tests will reveal whether the animal is healthy enough to undergo general anesthesia or not. The tests will also determine if the dog suffers from any blood clotting disorders. Radiographs are necessary to help visualize the extent of the deformities present. This helps the surgeon plan the operation.
The day of the surgery, the dog will need to have fasted for several hours. The dog will then be rendered unconscious using general anesthesia. The area being operated on will be clipped free of fur and cleaned prior to any incision being made. Once the limb has been opened, the affected bone will be cut right through, going width-wise. A portion of the bone will be removed and fat that has been grafted from elsewhere in the body will be packed into the space where the bone was. This helps prevent any bony union from developing. At this point, a metal screw, bone plate, or fixator can be used to secure the bones in place. Compression is used to unite the ends of the bones. The incision can be closed shut using staples.
Using metal implants is something that is generally done only on older dogs being treated for leg deformities. These surgeries hold a guarded prognosis for the affected animal. The worse the deformity is, the poorer the overall outcome generally becomes. Younger dogs tend to do much better than older dogs who require corrective osteotomies. If the surgery is performed correctly and the dog heals from the procedure, the deformity can be corrected.
The dog should be closely monitored as anesthesia wears off to ensure that all of its vital functions resume properly. The affected limb(s) will need to be bandaged. The dressings will need to be changed regularly to keep the surgical wound clean. Watch the area for any signs of infection and report it to the veterinarian at once. Upon discharge, the dog will be prescribed a broad spectrum antibiotic to be administered orally.
The dog will be on strict crate rest for at least six weeks post-surgery. While regular activity must be limited, physiotherapy should be started at once to promote movement and decrease complications with healing. Follow up appointments will be needed every few weeks to take x-rays. These will reveal if the leg is healing correctly or if further surgery will be needed. Most dogs show a significantly better attitude after the surgery has been performed, as they experience much less pain.
Corrective osteotomies are complicated operations that require bone removal, fat grafting, and metal implant insertion. Often times, a specialist is needed to carry out the surgery. Because of this, the procedure can cost from $3,000 to $5,000. If physiotherapy is used in the healing process, this can cost as much as $75 per treatment. If further surgeries are needed, the price can double.
As with all surgeries, complications exist related to the effects of general anesthesia on the animal. Irreparable damage can be done from abnormal weight bearing after the surgery has been performed. In some cases, the function of the limb may be decreased after the operation. This being said, most corrective osteotomies are successful in their treatment of leg deformities.
As these growth deformities may be inherited, always request you dog's family health history when obtaining the animal. Watch the dog as it grows and bring it in for regular check-ups. Treating this condition early is linked with much better outcomes. Do not breed dogs who present with this growth defect. Skye Terriers have been found to suffer from this ailment more than other breeds.
To prevent injury in your dog's youth that can lead to closed growth plates, keep it leashed at all times when on walks. Secure the perimeter of your backyard to ensure that there are no areas your dog can escape from. These measures can greatly reduce the chance of blunt force trauma to your dog.
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