What is Meniscectomy?

The stifle joint in dogs is a similar joint to the knee in humans. Just as people can pull or tear the muscles, tendons, and cartilage in their knees, dogs can tear their menisci as well. These menisci sit on top of the tibia and cushion the knee joint, decreasing friction as the dog moves. Any breed or size of dog can be susceptible to a meniscal injury. A meniscectomy surgery is the procedure used to treat this kind of damage. Your veterinarian may be able to complete this in the office, or you may need to see a veterinary surgeon. Once this cartilage has been injured, your dog may likely damage it again. 

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Meniscectomy Procedure in Dogs

Your veterinarian may require X-rays to better view the menisci before surgery or during the initial diagnosis. As part of the surgery, your veterinarian may run a complete blood count (CBC) to look for high white cell counts and possible infection. Because this is an invasive surgery, your dog will require general anesthesia. This surgery may be performed by a veterinary surgeon. Your surgeon will decide on the best treatment in regards to how much of the menisci to remove. Your veterinarian may remove the entire menisci or do a partial removal of the menisci. Full removal used to be more common for dogs, but recent studies show partial removal gives the menisci a chance to regenerate and potentially heal, whereas with a full removal, the menisci no longer exist to heal. If keeping a portion of the menisci is an option, the remaining tissue will provide a lubricant for the joints while still in place. This partial meniscectomy will give the dog the best chance at improving mobility. Studies have shown a full removal, though sometimes necessary, may increase the likelihood of future osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.

Efficacy of Meniscectomy in Dogs

Most dogs who have undergone a meniscectomy fully recover with decent mobility. Younger, lightweight dogs tend to heal and recover quicker than larger, heavier dogs. Having this type of meniscal injury once increases the chances of meniscal injuries in the future. Also, this type of injury and the surgery to follow could potentially increase the chance of osteoarthritis as your dog ages. Overall, a meniscectomy in dogs decreases the pain related to the stifle injury and improves your dog’s mobility.

If surgery is not possible, your veterinarian could potentially prescribe anti-inflammatories for pain management and provide a brace or orthotics for the affected area. There is not a vast amount of documentation proving a brace works as well in dogs as it may in humans with a similar knee injury. Your veterinarian may also recommend activity restrictions for your dog or physical therapy if you opt out of surgery. Physical therapy may also be recommended after surgery as the dog heals. The prognosis for the long term is good for most dogs after having a meniscectomy.

Meniscectomy Recovery in Dogs

A slow and consistent recovery is imperative for your dog post-meniscectomy surgery. Too much activity too soon could result in partial or complete failure of the meniscal repair. Your surgeon will give you exact post-surgery instructions. These instructions may include anti-inflammatory medications and complete rest for the dog. Over time, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy or therapy at home you can do with your dog which includes moving the dog’s leg within a range of motions and various exercises with short leash walks.

Recovery for your dog after a meniscectomy could take more than six months. You will begin to see results and improved mobility after about four months. However, it could take a full six months or more for the dog to handle routine exercise. Be sure to follow up with your primary veterinarian for follow-up care and take your dog to all recommended follow-up exams.  

Cost of Meniscectomy in Dogs

Depending on the veterinarian specialist used, a meniscectomy could cost between $2,000 and $6,500. If your veterinarian is able to perform an outpatient surgery in the office, your costs may be lower. If you are using a veterinary surgeon, your costs will be higher, but your doctor will also be more skilled with potentially more experience and a higher success rate. This is a conversation to have with your veterinarian about who is best to perform this surgery. These costs should include routine office visits and X-rays running between $50 and $200 depending on the size of the dog and scope of the office visits. If your dog is taken out of your regular veterinarian office for physical therapy, these rates may be higher, at an average cost between $50 and $75 a day.

Dog Meniscectomy Considerations

A full removal meniscectomy used to be the go-to surgery for a meniscal injury. With new studies, doctors are showing the benefits of a partial meniscectomy. Many surgeons are steering away from the full meniscectomy because of the risk of potential of future arthritis and degenerative joint disease. Additional studies have shown the regeneration of this tissue if it is not fully removed. Some of these studies are new and still underway, but the potential for additional new practices are in the future of veterinary science. There is always a chance once your dog has this kind of injury, they could easily re-injure the menisci, but their mobility and quality of life improve with surgery.

Meniscectomy Prevention in Dogs

Some of these injuries are quick and are easily unnoticed. Dogs who love to run and jump have a risk of twisting the stifle area and pulling or tearing their ligaments. Though there may not be much we can do to prevent an accident, there are ways to avoid joint injuries in your dog. Manage your dog’s weight with a healthy diet and daily exercise. If you see an unusual limp or lameness in your dog’s gait, have your veterinarian check it right away. A minor injury can increase in pain and severity if not treated early. If your dog has slightly torn or injured the menisci, they may self-heal with a little help from you. Keep ice on the minor injury and keep your dog from high activity. You may want to slow them from normal activity as well. Keeping the dog rested with a prescription of anti-inflammatories from your veterinarian may heal a minor injury before aligament tears more or completely. This may not prevent an injury, but it may prevent the need for surgery if allowed time to heal properly without re-injury.