Orthopaedics is the repair of bone and joint abnormalities or injuries. Orthopaedics can be required with some developmental issues, such as patellar luxation (loose kneecaps), or after injuries such as cruciate ligament damage or broken bones.
How do I know if my animal has one of these orthopaedic issues?
Any animal who is limping and/or seeming in noticeable pain for more than 30 minutes would benefit from a veterinary assessment. Sometimes, orthopaedic issues can be more subtle, intermittent or long-term. Dogs with patellar luxation are generally born with this condition.
In milder cases, they may either show intermittent “skipping” on a back-leg as they run (as their kneecap pops in and out of place), or they may seem fine but then suddenly start painfully limping one day after doing something as simple as jumping down from a sofa. In more severe cases, these animals may walk with an awkward “knock-kneed” back leg position.
What happens if my animal has just been injured in an accident?
If your animal has been in an accident (e.g. fallen from a height or been hit by a car) and is unable to walk or limping, we would advise bringing them in for a consultation as soon as possible given the higher likelihood of a broken bone.
Animals who have just been in an accident may be very frightened or in high levels of pain, and therefore are much more likely to bite even if they are normally friendly. Always look out for your safety too when helping an injured animal. If you think you can safely retrieve the animal, consider the following tips:
- Take care to approach the animal slowly and quietly, and handle them gently..
- If the animal is small or medium-sized, you may be able wrap them in a thick quilt or towel to lift them, so your hands are more protected and they feel safer. Small dogs can also be transported in a cat carrier.
- Cats should be placed into a safe carrier (which can be covered with a towel to make them feel safer) or if needs be, a strong cardboard box which has multiple air holes already punched into it and a means of securing the box closed.
- With large dogs who are unable to stand, you may try to carefully drag or roll them onto a thick blanket to act as a stretcher. It can help to roll up another thick blanket or towel to place around their neck like a doughnut, and have someone hold the twisted together towel ends tightly behind the dog’s head– this can reduce the dog’s ability to turn around and bite, without hurting them.
If you are unable to safely approach or move the animal, please phone us to ask for advice.
We would advise against you trying to give your pet any pain relief at home prior to seeing the vet, unless your pet has a recently-prescribed veterinary pain relief medication that you know is safe for them. Sadly, we intermittently see animals with unwellness or poisoning due to inappropriate medication types or doses being given to them by their well-meaning owners.
What orthopaedic treatment will my pet need?
When we see an animal with a bone or joint issue, we will assess them carefully with examination and appropriate imaging (e.g. X-rays) to help us reach the correct diagnosis and therefore make the best treatment recommendations for your pet. We will also give any animal who is in pain some effective pain relief, either by injection or tablet/medicated liquid.
Not all orthopaedic issues require surgical treatment – some can be treated or managed more conservatively with one or several of the following:
- Casts, supportive dressings or joint support braces
- Cage rest
- Temporary pain relief, e.g. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Changes in lifestyle (e.g. being kept off unstable surfaces such as sand)
- Physiotherapy-type exercises
- (Long-term) Weight loss
- (Long-term) Joint support supplements and pain relief, which can include:
- pentosan polysulphate (an anti-inflammatory arthritis management drug)
- fish oil or green-lipped mussel supplements (sources of omega-3 fatty acids)
- other pain relief medications
If we feel surgery is the best option for your pet’s particular issue, we can confidently offer surgery to correct the following common orthopaedic problems:
- We generally perform Tibial Crest Transposition and Lateral Imbrication – these techniques correct and secure the positioning of the main tendon and ligaments that attach to the patella (kneecap), so that the patella only moves in the correct direction afterwards.
- We may also perform Trochleoplasty if required – if the groove that the patella moves in is found to be too shallow for normal tracking, we can perform this procedure to deepen the groove whilst preserving the overlying cartilage.
Cruciate ligament damage:
- We can perform a Modified DeAngelis procedure, where we create a new artificial “ligament” to stabilise your pet’s knee
- During this procedure, we will also check inside your pet’s knee joint for any damaged cartilage, and remove this (or else it will cause ongoing pain).
If your animal requires treatment for a more complicated problem or injury, we can offer referral to one of several trusted and very experienced orthopaedic specialists.
The correct orthopaedic treatment for your pet will depend on your pet’s age, size and breed, the severity of their particular injury or abnormality, and your budget. Veterinary treatment is never a “One size fits all” business! Our experience with orthopaedics means we are confident to assess your animal, and offer surgical or medical treatment as appropriate to give your animal the best chance for a rapid return to normal comfort and function.