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What is Orthopedic Surgery?

Orthopedic surgery is a broad term for surgical repair of the bone or joint. A canine that has broken or fractured a bone due to trauma, or one that is suffering from a congenital condition that affects the joint, may require orthopedic surgery. In order to make surgical corrections to the bone, the dog will be referred to a veterinary specialist with training and the appropriate tools. Orthopedic Surgery is the most effective procedure for correcting an affected bone or joint and returning the patient to a normal state of health. Orthopedic surgery requires a great deal of recovery and rehabilitation time, plus the cost of surgery itself can be high.

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Orthopedic Surgery Procedure in Dogs

Orthopedic surgery, in general, uses surgical procedures that will bring the canine limb back to a normal or near normal state. The orthopedic veterinary surgeon may require the use of bone plates, pins or screws, nylon, casts or an artificial joint to achieve such a goal in orthopedic surgery. A dog that is scheduled to undergo orthopedic surgery will require heavy sedation and supplementary oxygen, as the procedure may take several hours for completion. With that being said, it is crucial for pre-surgical blood work and an overall analysis of the canine to take place. Dogs in a good quality of health are perfect candidates for an surgical orthopedic procedure. Orthopedic surgery includes a number of bone and joint correction surgery types, such as: 

  • Cruciate ligament repair 
  • Arthroscopic joint surgery
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia repair
  • Ligament and tendon reconstruction
  • Limb deformity correction 
  • Minimally-invasive fracture surgery
  • Total elbow replacement
  • Total hip replacement
  • Total knee replacement

Efficacy of Orthopedic Surgery in Dogs

Orthopedic surgery is the most effective form of surgery to correct a canine with a bone injury or joint condition. Completed by an experienced veterinary orthopedic surgeon, a canine’s limb or joint will return to a near normal state. 

Orthopedic Surgery Recovery in Dogs

Orthopedic surgery requires a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period following surgery. A dog that has undergone orthopedic surgery will require at least two weeks of exercise restrictions. The canine will not be allowed to walk around or engage in any other types of physical activity, which requires constant monitoring from the pet owner. After the initial two weeks, activity limitation will continue for four months after that and physical therapy may be recommended for the canine.  

Cost of Orthopedic Surgery in Dogs

Orthopedic surgery in dogs is costly and can cost pet owners from $100 to $3,000 to have performed. The total cost depends on the type of procedure your veterinarian is performing and the specific condition your dog is suffering from. For an accurate estimate of how much orthopedic surgery will cost for a specific condition, consult the veterinarian. 

Dog Orthopedic Surgery Considerations

Orthopedic surgery can be pricey and requires several months of recovery time for the canine. If a pet owner is not financially or practically prepared for the time it takes for the canine to recover, these may be issues a pet owner may need to consider. 

Orthopedic Surgery Prevention in Dogs

Preventing the need for orthopedic surgery can be challenging for pet owners, as many causes for bone surgery are related to unexpected injury or hereditary joint conditions. To prevent possible fracture or bone breaks, it is important to practice basic canine safety precautions such as providing a fenced-in yard and using a leash outside the home. Hereditary or congenital causes for a dog to need orthopedic surgery can only be prevented through halting all reproductive practices of canines known to have the condition(s). For canines that are diagnosed with hereditary joint complications, such as hip or elbow dysplasia, orthopedic surgery is the most effective form of treatment for that dog. 

Orthopedic Surgery Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Willow
Labrador Retriever
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

broken bone

My 1 year old female lab got ran over and broke her bicep. She is going to have orthopedic surgery and I was wondering the after effects, how long will she not be able to go and play outside and run and swim, and how should I care for her after the surgery is done. She is a very active dog and I would love for her to me back to normal.
Will she ever be how she was before she got ran over?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
There are a lot of variables in this case; without examining Willow it would be difficult to give you any specifics but she would need to have strict rest for weeks which may involve crating her so that she doesn’t start bouncing around. Again, with recovery it is difficult to say without having more information so I cannot say whether she will be back 100% or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Spot
Shepherd, lab, hound mix
9 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

broken leg

We are Looking to adopt a rescue dog who is recovering from surgery after being hit by a car. He had a broken left rear leg and some hip damage - the surgery was complicated but went well (I don't have all the details) and he is recovering nicely (6 weeks out) in a wonderful foster home. My husband's concern is that we will experience complications with him down the road having had such an invasive surgery and pins, etc. What are the long term effects of such a surgery? He is pain free now, but he is only about 9 months old.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
The long term effects of any surgery depend on what that surgery might have been - without knowing any details about the surgery, I have a hard time commenting on how he'll recover and possible long term sequelae. It would be best to talk to the surgeon who performed the procedure and ask what long term issues Spot may have, if any. Many orthopedic surgeries have great prognoses, but without knowing more, it is hard to say what his may be.

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Milo
Bernese Mountain Dog
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hi! My 1.5 year old bernese mountain dog was just diagnosed with elbow dysplasia in both of his front legs after getting xrays done. He has an appointment to meet with an orthopedic vet next week but I am nervous they will want to do surgery. Are there treatment options that don't include surgery? He is clearly in pain and is limping all the time. What do I do if I can't afford surgery?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
If Milo has dysplasia in his elbows, he will probably need surgery of some type. Try not to worry until you know what the surgeon thinks, as once you have their diagnosis, you can work on a plan. most clinics offer CareCredit as a form of payment for unexpected expenses, and you will know more about what to expect after that appointment. I hope that all goes well for Milo!

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Wicket
Pomeranian
19 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

attacking legs

My dog had X-ray which revealed no cartilage in either knee or hip joint. Seems this is A congenital/inherited problem more than likely that has appeared at approximately 12 months of age. Is there Anything that can be done to help with his mobility or pain? Any idea what approximate cost would be if surgery is an option? Thank you.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
Without seeing Wicket, or her x-rays, or knowing more about her, I cannot comment on treatment or cost of surgery, if it is an option. It would be best to follow up with your veterinarian to ask these questions, as they have seen her, and know her specific situation. I hope that things go well for her.

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Lobo
Labrador Retriever
5 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Pain and not walking on the leg.

My 5 month old Labrador puppy has a broken hip. It has been X-rayed and the break is near to the hip joint. What are my options? The emergency clinic has put me in touch with an orthopedic.

This feels like it will be very expensive.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
Without examining Lobo and seeing the x-ray it is not possible for me to say what the best course of action is as I don’t know specifically where the fracture is, whether it is complete or incomplete, is the femoral head affected or just the neck etc… An Orthopaedic Surgeon will be able to talk you through your options after reviewing Lobo’s case but this may not be a cheap fix if internal fixation is required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Olive
Yorkie
10 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Knee

Medication Used

Other

My little female yorkie who is 10 years old has a luxating patella that has now caused her little knee cap to pop out to the side. She cannot walk on her left hind leg, it just happened all of a sudden . My vet did X-rays and saw the displacement. She placed her on rimadyal for 5 days to see if that would help alittle . My yorkie does not seem to be in pain but she cannot walk on the levy hind leg, my vet says she may have to have orthopedic surgery to correct by a specialist . With that said what are my risks and outcome for success of the surgery what can I expect with this.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Luxating patellas can happen in varying degrees, and may or may not need surgery. if Olive is comfortable, she may be able to continue with pain medication and joint support. if she is in pain, she may need surgery to correct her knee abnormality. Since I cannot examine her, it would be best to follow up with your veterinarian to discuss what the best option for Olive might be.

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Daisy
Chihuahua
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Limping
On and off limping

Medication Used

She was prescribed a steroid

Won't stop limping (rear right leg) for over a year.Taken to multiple vets, all deemed her healthy. X-rays taken, again, nothing that would cause her to limp. Help?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without seeing Daisy, I have a hard time commenting on what might be going on with her. It might be best to stick with one veterinarian that you trust, as we often want to see how a dog responds to therapy when trying to determine what might be going on. She may have a joint or muscle problem that doesn't show up on an x-ray, but that may respond well to pain management. I'm not sure if she has been on any medications, but pain management might be something to consider as this doesn't seem to be improving. Your veterinarian can guide you in managing her pain, as well as following up to make sure that she is responding.

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Merlin
Golden Retriever
4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Pulls himself up using front legs
Limping.

Medication Used

Medacam

Merlin is a four yr old 86 lb golden retriever. Over the past year he has had to limit his walks to about 1/2 mile and avoid playing hard with his cannine friends. When he over does it he has a limp. Our regular vet detected an issue with his right knee and took xrays. They show an area of his knee where the bonds seem to touch....no cartilege. She has referred me to an ortho surgeon for evaluation. She said it may be possible to have more normal use of his leg following surgery. For now we give him medacam, a good joint supplement and are reducing his weight (at one point he was 12 lbs heavier). What type of procedure could a surgeon perform and what cost for services should we expect? What alternatives to surgery might be possible? What might be the consequences of not having surgery?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1101 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. To answer your questions, I would have to actually see the x-rays and evaluate Merlin. Those will be perfect questions to ask the orthopedic specialist that you are going to see. It would be worthwhile having the consultation with the surgeon, as they are very knowledgeable people on expected outcomes, limitations, options, and of course will know the expected cost associated with whatever surgery ends up being performed. Physical therapy often helps, with some conditions, and they may recommend that for you as well. I hope that everything goes well with Merlin - he has many years left on those legs!

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rocky
Mixed
8 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

limping on and off does not appear

Dog was clipped by a car three fractures in left back paw. He was in splint for twelve weeks splint removed a month ago limps on and off. Seems to walk better on grass than pavement.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
Without examining Rocky it is difficulty to give any indication whether any further treatment is required; you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination and possibly an x-ray to determine if any further treatment is required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sydney
American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier
8 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hi, I have a 70 lb dog that tore her ACL. Its been 4 months and she is still limping alot. I put on soft braces and her limp is alot better. I FEEL..I do not HEAR a popping in that area. I read you could HEAR the clicking but i dotn hear anything. In fact i have to work at feeling it. It isnt all the time.The ortho vet thinks meniscus..but ortho vet didnt see her, another vet did. Anyway we did 6 weeks of Hydrotherapy without any improvement. The therapist feels it could take longer to heal. We are not doing any water therapy at this time. Out of money. I cannot afford a $3000 surgery. I guess my question is..everything i am reading says 2 months max for healing including my ortho vet. Therapist disagrees. ..but i have friends that it took 6 months or longer for their dogs but they recovered without surgery for torn ACL. Any input on this? I am confused by what I am being told..and what I have seen with my friends dogs. Is there any room for improvement at this point? My ortho vet thinks NOT. ugh!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
There is a lot of debate about surgery versus medical and physical therapy, but in my experience surgery is the better option; there is little evidence to suggest in a dog Sydney’s size, physical therapy would be a viable alternative to surgery. To see whether a dog has a torn cranial cruciate ligament, a drawer test is the best method to use. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/cranial-cruciate-ligament-disease

We did the drawer test which is what confirmed the torn ACL

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Kaleb
Yorkie
8 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Pain
Lameness

Medication Used

Tramadol

My dog was diagnosed with legg calve perthes disease. It’s a 8 month yorkie. The vet recommended surgery but I would like to know if there’s any other alternatives besides surgery.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
Mild cases may be managed with pain relief but this is usually only a short term fix; surgery (femoral head osteotomy) is the treatment of choice and is usually curative. There are no other treatment options available and in many cases the condition is too severe for medical therapy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Spock
hound mix
5 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lower leg deformity

How much would limb deformity surgery cost generally? My dog sprained his front leg and was in a cast over the weekend. His lower portion past the joint is now bent at an awkward angle. The vet did not say anything about it and I did not notice until I go home. I will be going to get a 2nd opinion at a different vet and not return to the previous one. But I am worried it may be ligament related and need correction surgery.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
There is no set price for correction of a limb deformity as the price varies depending on the severity of the deformity, action required to correct the deformity, your location and whether you visit a General Veterinarian or an Orthopaedic Specialist. Some angular deformities may self resolve, others may not require any intervention and other cases require surgery (or multiple surgeries); I would wait a while to see if there is any improvement in the deformity, if not then ask a second opinion from another Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Chaz
Pomapoo
4 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Fracture

My puppy fractured the neck of his femur - has had surgery and is being cared for post up by us (his owners) now as a puppy he's full of energy and wants to play but he really need to limit movement of his leg. were confining him to a crate but that doesn't seem to be enough he's a Wrigley worm - we spoken to the vet and have opted to give him sedatives for a few days so that he can chill out and heal properly but I just feel awful doping him up. I want him to heal and rest his limb and this seems like the only way I can keep him from hurting his wound/ fracture repair. Is this a common practise post op?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
Most dogs after surgery would normally be low energy and easy to control especially when put in a crate, but some dogs are active even when confined to a small area. We never like to use sedation in dogs and it isn’t common practice, but in some cases it is the better of two evils; the other being further injury from overactivity. I understand your concern, but this will hopefully reduce the chance of injury during recovery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Butters
Pomeranian
5 1/2 months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Butters fractured his owner and radius of this right arm. Is it possible for the fracture to heal without surgery. His veterinarian is splinting it until a orthopaedic veterinarian looks at his x-ray.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2514 Recommendations
The type of fracture and the overall severity will determine the course of action; if your Veterinarian is referring to an Orthopaedic Surgeon, then they may believe that surgery is required. Many simple closed fractures require splinting and rest, more complicated fractures may require surgical stabilisation or fixation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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