Like their human owners, dogs are at risk of suffering broken bones, torn ligaments, arthritis and congenital diseases. Fortunately for both pet owner and pet, there are veterinarians who can treat these ailments and get pets back on their feet. James Roush, an orthopedic surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at Kansas State University, is one such veterinarian.
Roush frequently performs orthopedic surgeries on small animals and repairs many different kinds of injuries.
One injury Roush treats regularly is a cruciate ligament rupture, an injury common in large breed dogs, especially dogs that are very active, or in older dogs with arthritis. The rupture occurs when dogs stands on their toes with their knee bent forward, causing the femur to bear down heavily on the cranial cruciate ligament, the only ligament opposing the femur as it pushes down. When the stress becomes too much, the ligament ruptures. Rush likened the cruciate rupture in a dog to a knee injury suffered by athletes when they tear their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.
"One way that we see a very active dog tear their cruciate ligament is when they jump up in the air, come down and land on one leg with a little twist and a pop. That would be similar to the way a football player or a basketball player would get a cruciate rupture," Roush said.
There are certain factors that may contribute to a cruciate ligament tear. These factors also mirror risk factors for people. Obesity, activity and genetic tendencies may all play a role in the dog's level of risk of a cruciate tear.
Like surgery to repair a torn knee in humans, there are also surgeries available to repair cruciate ruptures in dogs. The most common surgery Roush uses to repair cruciate ruptures is tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO. The TPLO surgery levels the tibial plateau and eliminates the need for the ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. According to Roush, he performs an average of about six TPLO surgeries a week.
Another injury Roush sees regularly is traumatic fractures. Like cruciate ruptures, trauma fractures may have other contributing factors.
"A lot of the fractures we see are related to dogs that are running loose. They've been allowed loose where they can run into the road and get hit or they are riding in the back of the pickup truck unrestrained and jump out," he said. "We also see injuries when the pickup is in an accident and the dog is unrestrained in the back and is thrown out, just like you or I would be if we were unrestrained."
Roush also performs surgeries, such as fracture fixations, to repair traumatic injuries. These surgeries include bone-plating and external skeletal fixation, in which a frame is placed around the bone with pins going through the skin and into the bone.
Although cruciate ruptures and traumatic fractures make up the two largest groups of injuries that Roush treats, he also performs surgeries to repair damages that may be caused by congenital orthopedic diseases. According to Roush, the nutrition of the dog as a puppy and heritability are risk factors for congenital orthopedic diseases such as osteochondritis dissecans, or OCD, which affects shoulders, elbows and spinal articulations.
"In nutrition, especially, the two things that cause problems are too much energy, where we feed the puppy food with a lot of calories, and too much calcium, especially in large breed dogs, where most of these diseases occur," he said.
Roush offers the following tips to help dog owners, especially those with young puppies, prevent injuries to their pets:
* Check the dog's pedigree and buy from established breeders.
* Control diet and feed young puppies low-calorie food so that they stay at a normal weight or thinner than normal weight. According to Roush, obese puppies are more prone to congenital orthopedic disease.
* Watch calcium intake, particularly in large-breed dogs. According to Roush, you should never supplement large-breed dogs with calcium.
* Don't let your dog run without a leash if they tend to run away.
* Don't let your dog ride unrestrained in the back of your vehicle.