Medical Conditions That Can Lead to Leg Surgery in Your Dog

It’s a common misconception that dogs don’t get sick or injured. In fact, they can suffer from various health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and other debilitating diseases, just like humans can. What many pet owners aren’t aware of is that dogs also need surgeries just as people do.

While some procedures are more common than others (like spaying and neutering), some surgeries might surprise you if your dog ever needs them. Here are four conditions you should know about if your dog ever needs surgery for one:

Cruciate Ligament Repair

If a cruciate ligament is torn, it can lead to instability in the knee joint. This can cause pain and lameness. The most common way to repair a torn cruciate ligament is with surgery. The procedure to repair a torn cruciate ligament is called an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. ACL reconstructions are done on both sides of your dog’s knee when both are damaged.

ACL surgery requires making a small incision at the top of the tibia bone, which includes the weight-bearing part of the tibia, called the tibial plateau. This is called an osteotomy. Osteotomy is a surgical procedure in which the bone is cut and then re-aligned to heal at a better angle. The entire process is known as tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). A plate and screws are also used to stabilize the bone as it heals.

The surgical process is considered the best and safest option for cruciate ligament repair. According to a recent study on 143 dogs treated with osteotomy and 125 treated in other ways, the treatment method affected disease-related and overall survival. According to the conclusions, surgical treatment was less likely to be associated with hazards.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition in which the patella (knee cap) slips out of place. This can happen when the ligaments that hold the kneecap are weak or damaged, causing it to dislocate.

The symptoms of patellar luxation include limping, difficulty walking and sitting down, and pain. Suppose you notice any of these symptoms in your dog. In that case, it’s essential to get them checked out by your vet right away because, left untreated, this condition could lead to other problems like arthritis or damage to surrounding tissues like tendons or ligaments.

Suppose there’s no apparent cause for the dislocation, such as an injury. In that case, your vet will likely do some tests, including x-rays and/or an ultrasound scan, before diagnosing patellar luxation. Treatment options depend on how severe your dog’s case is but may include medication such as NSAIDs, physiotherapy exercises such as swimming therapy for dogs with certain types of injuries, and surgical procedures if necessary.

Patellar luxation is also said to be the early stage of cruciate ligament rupture. According to a recent study on dogs, about 22-41% of small and 13% of large breeds with patellar luxation developed cruciate ligament rupture.

Medication like Previcox can help ease the pain and treat patellar luxation if it’s in the starting stage. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain associated with patellar luxation. The medication works by blocking the production of prostaglandins in the body and reducing inflammation associated with the condition. You can use Previcox for dogs to ease the symptoms and pain in your dog.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a condition that affects the elbow joint and can cause pain and stiffness. It is dogs’ most common orthopedic problem, affecting both large and small breeds.

Elbow dysplasia affects the joints of your dog’s front limbs, especially their elbows and knees. In some cases, it can lead to arthritis (inflammation of the joint) or degenerative joint disease (arthritis that progresses over time). Symptoms may include:

  • Lameness or limping
  • Weakness when lifting a limb
  • Reluctance to move or exercise
  • Pain when touching their legs
  • Swelling around their elbows or knees
  • Excessive licking at their elbows/knees due to discomfort
  • Decreased range of motion in their joints
  • Difficulty getting up from lying down because they feel too much pain in doing so

Elbow dysplasia can be diagnosed by DNA tests, as dysplasia is also often connected to genetics. You can also consult with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). This body can inform you how likely your dog is to get diagnosed with a physical condition, such as elbow dysplasia.

Shoulder Osteochondritis Dissecans

Your dog’s shoulder is a ball and socket joint, like the human shoulder. It is subject to arthritis and degeneration. Osteochondritis Dissecans of the shoulder is a disease that affects the shoulder, causing inflammation of the articular cartilage covering the end of the humerus (the long bone in your dog’s front leg). This disease can cause lameness and pain in your dog.

The best thing you can do for your pooch if he has shoulder OCD is to take him to see his veterinarian as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment plans can be implemented. Your veterinarian may recommend surgery if there isn’t much improvement after using medications to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. However, there are some steps you can take on your own at home before seeking veterinary attention:

  • Exercise regularly with your dog: This will help strengthen muscles around joints affected by arthritis/degeneration, so they’re better able to bear weight without causing further damage.
  • Feed an appropriate amount of high-quality food: Overweight dogs are at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis than those who maintain healthy weights because excess weight puts more strain on bones, ligaments, and other connective tissue throughout their bodies.

Recently, a new approach of treatment, named the Cheli approach, was tested for treating shoulder osteochondritis dissecans. The study was tested on 123 dogs. Over 95% of the dogs with this medical condition in the early stage didn’t require any further treatment apart from Cheli. Hence, it was concluded that the Cheli approach could be safe for surgical treatment of shoulder osteochondritis dissecans.


This article covered some common injuries that can lead to dog surgery, and hopefully, it has helped you better understand the procedures and how they may affect your pet. If you have any questions about what is best for your dog, please consult a vet or a specialist before proceeding with any treatment plan.

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