Veterinary orthopaedics deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that arise from malfunction of the locomotor system. This can involve problems in bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and fascia alone or in combination.
Veterinary orthopaedic specialists thus treat animals for deformities, malformations, arthroscopy, joint stiffness, cruciate ligament tears or bone fractures.
Veterinary orthopaedics – how do orthopaedic problems arise?
Malfunction in the support and locomotor system arises due to accidents and excessive or incorrect loading, which can often not be avoided in everyday life. The tendency to some orthopaedic diseases is congenital and some breeds of animals therefore show increased susceptibility to certain disorders of the locomotor system. Orthopaedic diseases can be diagnosed by examination, X-ray, CT or laboratory tests.
How does the veterinary surgeon treat orthopaedic diseases of the locomotor system?
Limb deformities as well as fractures and other injuries can be extremely disabling for the animal and can lead to severe chronic pain.
Some of these disorders and dysfunctions require correction of the anatomy by a surgical operation. This is called orthopaedic surgery. These include, for example, severe cases of hip dysplasia in dogs. Anatomical correction by means of an operation is supplemented by targeted postoperative physiotherapy to train the function of the involved tendons, ligaments and muscles and restore their function. Comprehensive diagnostic investigations are carried out first, followed by a detailed discussion of the possible treatment options. Naturally we consider an operation only when this represents the only alternative to cure your pet.
Orthopaedics in animals – selection of possible cruciate ligament operations
There are various methods for surgery of a torn cruciate ligament. Which method will be used is decided depending on the surgeon and animal. Here are three possible methods.
TPLO in dogs
TPLO (tibial plateau levelling osteotomy) is an operation widely performed in veterinary orthopaedics under the heading “Cruciate ligament surgery in dogs”.
The anterior cruciate ligament connects the thigh bone to the shin bone and stabilises the knee. After a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament the shin and thigh bones can move against one another and the knee becomes unstable. In TPLO the biomechanics of the joint is altered and thereby stabilised. Before the operation, the angle of the patient’s tibial plateau must be measured. This is then corrected in the course of the operation.
After the operation it is important to give your dog time to recover completely. Only slow walks on the leash are advised in the first weeks. Exercise is increased gradually and after a few weeks your dog can again run around off the leash outdoors.
TTA in dogs
TTA (“tibial tuberosity advancement”) is an operation method intended to stabilise the knee after an anterior cruciate ligament tear. The anterior cruciate ligament connects the thigh bone to the shin bone and stabilises the knee. When that cruciate ligament tears, the thigh bone with its rounded lower end slides on the top of the shin bone, which slopes backwards.
In TTA we detach the front part of the shin bone (tibia) by a vertical saw cut and move it forward. A spacer is inserted in the bone gap to maintain the change in position. This is then either fixed directly with screws or we attach an additional plate on the inside of the tibia.
Ligament replacement operation
In this, a non-absorbable nylon band is used that, so to speak, replaces the cruciate ligament outside the lateral knee joint capsule and imitates its function.
The nylon band is placed around the lateral fabella behind the femoral condyle and brought through a drill hole. Finally, the band is then tied and/or fixed with what is known as a crimp sleeve. The nylon band serves only for temporary stabilisation until sufficient scar tissue has formed around it so that the knee is stabilised again.
Orthopaedics in dogs – patellar luxation
Patellar luxation in dogs is one of the commonest disorders of the knee in small breeds. It usually results from a congenital predisposition. This is why investigations for this disease are carried out for the breed association. Patellar luxation can also occur as the result of an accident in dogs of any size. Patellar luxation is classified into 4 grades of severity and can occur on one or both sides.
The veterinary surgeon can diagnose or exclude patellar luxation by clinical examination. This will also tell you with certainty whether your pet is particularly at risk for patellar luxation.
Patellar luxation is usually treated by an operation. The aim is to stabilise the natural position of the kneecap. This is achieved by a combination of deepening the groove, moving the patellar tendon attachment and tightening the joint capsule. In preparation for this, the surgeon takes X-rays or a CT scan. Only the treating veterinary surgeon can decide whether there is an alternative to operation.
Bone fractures and dislocations
In these cases, the animal is often in pain, which cannot always be recognised immediately by its owner. If a fracture or dislocation is suspected, the animal is X-rayed and treated accordingly.
Dislocated joints must be reduced, and veterinary orthopaedic surgeons usually do this manually. Broken bones must be positioned surgically in their original position and fixed with a plaster cast. Bone fractures must always be treated promptly. The older a fracture, the harder it is to heal.
Orthopaedic aids for cats and dogs
Sometimes your own pet can be disabled due to amputation, paralysis, joint hypermobility or joint disease that cannot be treated surgically. To allow your pet to lead a mobile life nevertheless, there are splints, prostheses, carts and support bandages as orthopaedic aids for cats and dogs. You are welcome to discuss whether and which of these aids is possible for your pet with one of our veterinary orthopaedists.
Naturally, we also concern ourselves with the veterinary orthopaedic concerns of all other small animals. Call us and make an appointment for a consultation. In an emergency, call us before you come so that we can prepare everything accordingly. Our veterinary orthopaedic team looks forward to helping your pet and providing it again with more quality of life.