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During summertime, we enjoy spending lots of time outdoors with our pets, engaging in activities like playing in the park, swimming, and running in the woods. However, if your dog or cat experiences an orthopedic injury, it can quickly end their summer fun—and yours.

Just as in humans, orthopedic injuries in pets are any issues with the bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments. And, as in humans, they often cause significant pain, discomfort, and decreased mobility, and often require surgical intervention to repair.

Luckily, BEVS has a board-certified veterinary surgeon who is knowledgeable and experienced in repairing common orthopedic injuries in pets. Here, we look at what orthopedic surgery entails, how to avoid pet orthopedic injuries and strain in the summer months, and how BEVS can help.

Common Reasons for Orthopedic Surgery

A veterinary visit is in order if your pet is injured or experiences pain while moving around in their everyday life. Your pet may be referred to BEVS for:

Acute injury. If your pet has experienced an injury such as a bone fracture, a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear, or another similar acute injury, surgery is necessary to repair the bones and ligaments and halt the progression of damage to surrounding body structures. Surgical repair will stabilize the healing process, prevent further pain, and stop the progression of other problems, such as arthritis, at the injury site.

Repetitive motion injury. People aren’t the only ones who experience repetitive motion injuries! Sometimes, a pet’s everyday motions can cause orthopedic damage even without an apparent accident or injury. For example, as they age, pets can experience what is known as a luxating patella. The patella bone (kneecap) typically sits over the grooves of the thigh bone, but over time, the ligaments that hold it in place can weaken, causing the patella to slip out of place. Both dogs and cats can suffer from hind leg patella luxation, which causes pain and decreased mobility, including a tell-tale “skip hop” limp.

Breed-related or hereditary disorders. Orthopedic surgery can also correct developmental problems in the musculoskeletal system. Certain breeds, especially large-breed dogs, are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia. In these conditions, the joints loosen, causing pain, discomfort, and the progression of arthritis. Surgery can repair the joints, increasing mobility and comfort and preventing arthritis from worsening.

Shoulder osteochondritis is another hereditary condition often seen in dogs aged six months to 2 years, resulting in shoulder pain, stiffness, and lameness. It occurs when a small piece of cartilage detaches from the shoulder bone. This cartilage flap is easily removed with arthroscopic surgery, which allows the underlying bone to heal, stops joint irritation, and prevents the cartilage from moving to other parts of the body where it may cause further injury.

Strategies To Avoid Orthopedic Injuries in Pets

Although not every orthopedic injury or illness can be prevented, there are some ways you can reduce the chances of your pet being sidelined by an orthopedic problem.

Weight management. Bones and ligaments are the frameworks for carrying the body, so it makes sense that adding additional weight causes excess strain on the body’s musculoskeletal structures. Keeping your pet lean and in good condition will reduce the chances of an orthopedic injury. Ask your veterinarian for nutrition and feeding recommendations tailored to your pet’s breed, age, and activity level.

Exercise. Regular low-impact exercise is vital for maintaining your pet’s physical and mental health, but the wrong activity can place undue strain on joints and bones. Growing puppies should not run on hard surfaces, as this can interfere with their growing bones and joint development. Ask your veterinarian when it’s safe to begin any exercise program with your young dog, especially if they are a large or giant breed dog.

Swimming is a great alternative summer exercise, particularly for older dogs with osteoarthritis; introducing a puppy to water early will let them take advantage of this low-impact exercise option when they are older.

Conditioning and Strengthening. In the summer months, pets often have a sudden increase in exercise and activity. Easing into exercise, especially competitive events, takes planning and preparation. Pets, especially athletes, should work with a rehabilitation therapist to improve endurance and soft tissue strength that prepares the body for athletic demands. A warm-up routine that increases blood flow to the muscles and tendons before a workout can decrease the risk of orthopedic injuries, so a five to ten-minute walk or trot is highly encouraged before more rigorous activity. In addition, range of motion and stretching exercises after a workout can improve strength and flexibility, reducing the chances of injury.

How BEVS Can Help  

Whether your pet is a couch potato, an agility champion, or somewhere in between, orthopedic injuries can happen. At BEVS, we have a board-certified veterinary surgeon, and rehabilitation therapists to help your pet regain range of motion, mobility, and strength while managing pain. Our team treats pets with various orthopedic conditions, from hip dysplasia to cranial cruciate ligament tears, bone fractures, and more. By also working with our advanced rehabilitation service, your pet’s recovery will benefit from a personalized treatment plan that includes various therapies such as an underwater treadmill, exercise planning, therapeutic laser, massage, acupuncture, and more.

If your family veterinarian diagnoses an orthopedic problem that requires surgery, they may refer you to our specialty hospital. Call us at (802) 863-2387 to schedule a consultation and start your pet on the path to recovery and comfort.

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