Non Surgical Vs. Surgical

Surgery can prevent, moderate, and in some cases remove arthritis.

Prevention of arthritis surgeries are aimed at the younger dog to correct genetic, developmental and traumatic causes of arthritis. Moderation of arthritis surgeries are aimed at all stages to change the loading on the joint, or remove fragments of cartilage/bone from within the joint. Surgeries aimed at removing/resolving arthritis tend to be aimed at older dogs to remove the painful joint, or joint surface.

Before considering surgical intervention, you will need X-rays and maybe CT or even MRI scanning. No decisions can be made without a clear understanding of the condition. When considering surgery make sure you understand why your dog would benefit from surgery, what the expectations of the surgery are, what the costs of the surgery and after-care will be, and what the risks are.

You also need to consider whether your dog will tolerate and benefit as it will involve several anaesthetics, several trips to the vets, and an extended period of rehabilitation. Also consider whether there are other sources of arthritis that mean your dog will still be in pain despite the surgery.  Your vet will be able to help you answer these questions.

Take a look at these case studies, which give examples of how surgery can be combined with a long term management plan to care for your dog:
Truffle, female 10-year-old Collie X

Truffle had been very lame in her left hind limb for 4 weeks. She had radiographs of the limb taken and arthritis in the left knee was confirmed. The strength of the cruciate ligament within the stifle was checked and felt to be intact.

She was given anti-inflamatories daily as well as rest and myotherapy but she did not significantly improve over the next 3 weeks. She was reassessed and an orthopaedic exam repeated. This time there was evidence the ligament had been damaged which required surgery.

Within 2 weeks of surgery she was very much better, and now 2 years on she bears weight evenly on both hind limbs. She is on a constantly changing management plan of...

  • Controlled exercise
  • Joint supplements
  • Weight control
  • Adapted house with increased number of rugs, improved bed, and little access to the stairs
  • Opioid pain relief if she is thought to be in pain (she cannot tolerate anti-inflammatories

Harold, male 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog

Harold was born with poor joint alignment in both his elbows leading to early onset arthritis, and both of his knees suffered from cruciate ligament disease also probably due to poor bone alignment.

The initial non-surgical approach did not show good enough results and quality of life was in question due to the constant pain in all 4 limbs.

It was clear his knees were worse than his elbows so surgery to stabilise each one was performed 3 months apart. Harold is now slowly improving but has a lot of rehabilitation to regain the strength back in his hind limbs. This will involve weight control, pain-controlling medications, modified exercise plan, therapeutic exercises, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Hopefully the pain from his knees will reduce significantly and he will fight the disease for a few more years.

Lottie Hoare, 12 month old female Labrador

Lottie had been born with severe hip dysplasia, so much so you could see and hear her hip pop out of its socket when she placed weight on that limb. She was in a lot of pain and her long term health looked very bleak.

Lottie had each hip replaced approximately 3 months apart, and post each operation she had a very restricted exercise plan followed by strengthening exercises after.

Lottie is now pain free, and will never get arthritis in her hips.