Surgery Options for Dogs With Arthritis in the Knees

by Lydia Janssen
    Older dogs are prone to developing arthritis.

    Older dogs are prone to developing arthritis.

    Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

    When your dog develops arthritis, your veterinarian will likely try to manage the condition through weight loss and medications. Sometimes surgery turns out to be the best option for providing pain relief or returning function to affected areas. A variety of surgeries treat arthritis in the knees. The type and severity of arthritis your dog is experiencing will determine which surgery, if any, is best.

    Joint Fusion

    Arthrodesis, or joint fusion, is a surgery sometimes used to treat oesteoarthritis, the slowly progressing degenerative disease that most people associate with the term arthritis. Arthrodesis starts with removing cartilage from the joint and placing bone graft tissue in the spaces between the knee patella and the bones of the leg. The leg is then secured with plates under the skin, and the dog's movement is restricted for eight to 12 weeks. During this time, the bones will fuse together. The procedure can serve to reduce pain, stabilize a loose joint and secure fractures in the bone that can't be repaired through other procedures. This procedure seriously reduces the range of motion in the knee, however, and often results in a swinging gait.

    Total Knee Replacement

    Total knee replacement surgery can offer relief from osteoarthritis to your dog while maintaining the utility of the joint. It is usually performed in advanced cases of the ailment. The patella is removed completely, and a prosthetic joint is fastened to both the femur and the tibia. professional physical therapy is necessary to keep the full range of motion after surgery. The procedure typically results in significantly less pain and significantly more mobility for the dog, although long-term effects of the procedure are still under study.

    Joint Scraping or Cleaning

    A cheilectomy is a procedure to treat osteoarthritis that involved cleaning the joint of osteophytes, or loose particles, in the joint. This surgery can provide temporary pain relief to the knee, but eventually the loose particles and the pain will return. In cases of advanced septic arthritis, or arthritis caused by bacterial infection, it may become necessary to perform an arthrotomy. This procedure removes necrotic tissue around the joint. The area is then flushed with a sterile solution and left open to heal, helping slow the spread of the infection and promote healing.

    Considering Amputation

    Depending on the cause of arthritis and the severity of your dog's condition, your veterinarian may recommend amputation of the affected limb. In cancerous arthritis, most often caused by synovial cell sarcoma, removing the limb can prevent the spread of cancer and save your dog's life. One in four dogs with this condition will have cancer cells spread to their lungs without amputation. In severe cases of septic arthritis, amputation may be recommended to prevent the further spread of infection.

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    About the Author

    Lydia Janssen began her career writing news articles for the SPCA to connect adoptable pets with their potential owners. She moved into professional writing in 2009 and uses her experience as a dog trainer, SPCA kennel worker and veterinary technician to bring quality information to responsible pet owners.

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