Orthopedic surgery involves repairing a bone or joint affected by trauma or a congenital condition, and these procedures have a high success rate in returning a pet’s limb to normal or near normal status. Our team at Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center uses advanced techniques and comprehensive anesthesia monitoring to ensure the highest quality of life for your pet with a bone or joint problem. We would like to explain a few procedures we offer so you can understand how your pet can benefit. 

Surgical repair of fractured limbs in pets

The bones that compose the limbs in pets are similar to the bones found in people’s arms and legs, and these bones can be fractured if your pet encounters a trauma, such as a car accident or sporting injury. Fractures are classified into several categories:

  • Incomplete — An incomplete fracture occurs when the break does not extend across the bone’s full circumference. These are most commonly seen in young pets.
  • Complete — A complete fracture occurs when the break extends across the bone’s full circumference, resulting in two or more bone fragments. Complete fractures are further categorized based on the break’s shape:
  • Transverse — The break is straight across the bone at a right angle to the length of the bone.
  • Oblique — The break is at a diagonal across the bone, creating two sharp pointed bone fragments.
  • Comminuted — The break results in three or more bone fragments, which may be in varying shapes and sizes.
  • Open — A fracture that results in an open skin wound is called an open fracture. These can occur when the broken bone penetrates the skin, or when an object penetrates the skin to break the bone. 

To heal appropriately, the bone fragments must be immobilized sufficiently to allow the bone to heal back together. Several factors are considered when determining a fracture treatment plan, including the nature of the fracture, the pets’ age, size, and demeanor, and the environment where the pet will recover. Typically, the best way to ensure quality bone healing and good limb use involves surgical intervention. Techniques include:

  • External fixation — Pins are surgically placed in the bone, coming out through the skin. These pins are connected by clamps to a rigid bar to splint the bone. 
  • Internal fixation — Devices, such as plates, screws, nails, pins, and wires, are surgically implanted inside the bone or on the bone’s surface to hold the bone fragments together.

Surgical repair of a fractured pelvis in pets

Pelvic fractures represent about 20% to 30% of pet fractures, and often result from being hit by a car. The pelvis forms a box-like structure, consisting of the paired bones of the ilium, acetabulum, ischium, and pubis. Pelvic fractures typically result in multiple fracture locations, because damage and displacement at one point usually results in displacement at a second point. This makes reviewing the X-rays and choosing an appropriate surgical approach extremely important when managing a pet who has a pelvic fracture. Common lesions that are surgically managed include:

  • Sacroiliac luxations — The ilium is typically displaced forward to the sacrum, and repair involves using a lag screw to fix the ilium to the sacrum. A trans-ilial rod can also be placed to provide additional stability, especially when both sides are affected.
  • Ilial body fractures — These fractures most commonly occur as oblique fractures. The ischium is usually displaced toward the center of the pet’s body. Plates are used most frequently to stabilize ilial body fractures and, ideally, three screws are placed on either side of the fracture.
  • Acetabular fractures — These are one of the most challenging fracture repairs in pets, because the bone fragments must be placed and immobilized sufficiently to minimize degenerative joint disease development. Stabilization can be achieved using bone plates and screws. 

Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy in pets

The cranial cruciate ligament is an important stabilizing structure in a pet’s knee joint, and damage to this ligament is a common reason for hind limb lameness, pain, and subsequent knee arthritis in dogs. Many factors contribute to cranial cruciate ligament disease (CrCLD), including ligament aging, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, conformation, and breed. Breeds most commonly affected include the rottweiler, Newfoundland, Staffordshire terrier, Mastiff, Akita, Saint Bernard, Chesapeake Bay retriever, and Labrador retriever. The best treatment for CrCLD is typically surgical intervention, which is the only way to permanently stabilize the knee joint. The surgery’s goal is not to repair the cranial cruciate ligament, since the structure has no ability to heal, but to stabilize the joint, and prevent further pain and damage. Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) is preferred by most orthopedic surgeons, because the technique is consistently successful for most pets, especially large, active dogs.

When the cranial cruciate ligament is ruptured, the dog’s shin bone (i.e., tibia) slides forward in relation to the thigh bone (i.e., femur). The TPLO procedure changes the angle and relationship of these bones by cutting a semicircular area from the top of the tibia and rotating the tibia approximately 90 degrees to provide better stability during the dog’s stride. The tibia is fixed in place using a bone plate. This procedure greatly reduces mechanical stress on the knee joint, minimizing joint inflammation and osteoarthritis development.

If your pet experiences a fracture or a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, orthopedic surgery is the best way to ensure they return to normal or near normal status. Contact our team at Mountain Legacy Veterinary Center, so we can get them back on their feet.