Meet the FHSA Orthopedic Surgery Team

This entry is article 5 of 6 in the April 2013 issue

When a dog starts limping or has an abnormal gait, it’s natural to worry. If he’s limping, he’s in pain, and if he limps for more than a few days, it’s likely to result in the early stages of arthritis (inflamed joints). For dogs, arthritis is rapidly progressive, so if there’s persistent lameness for more than a couple weeks’ duration—even in young dogs, who can have arthritis too—it should be investigated by a veterinary specialist.

At Tufts Foster Hospital, we see trauma cases admitted through the emergency service and outpatient appointments. Let’s focus on outpatient appointments. Outpatient appointments most often begin with a referral from a primary veterinarian. We review your dog’s medical history and previous radiographs (X-rays); perform a complete gait evaluation, physical exam, and orthopedic exam; and keep your primary care veterinarian in the loop with written reports, updates, and other timely communication. When you bring your dog in, we’ll investigate causes for his poorly fitting or unstable joint. It could be a number of reasons: elbow dysplasia (commonly seen in labs and golden retrievers, even in very young dogs), which can usually be treated by arthroscopy in a minimally invasive manner; cranial cruciate ligament disease, usually treated with surgical stabilization; or hip dysplasia (widely known as a disorder in large- and giant-breed dogs, but it can occur in smaller dogs as well), treated medically and sometimes with total hip replacement, a surgery that we routinely perform. We work closely with other specialties at Tufts Foster Hospital, such as diagnostic imaging, to determine what’s ailing your dog and how we can help. By collaborating and using the expertise of our team of veterinary specialists, we improve the accuracy of our diagnostic and surgical procedures. The strength of the “Tufts bench”—its people and technology—ensures your pet receives the best care possible. For example, if your dog has a crooked leg, we can use a state-of-the-art CAT scan with 3D reconstruction of the bone to accurately measure the deformity. In the past, this would be accomplished with a series of two-dimensional radiographs (X-rays) that had to be interpreted together to get a three-dimensional sense of the deformity within the bone and to plan the surgery. Now, we can scan the normal and abnormal leg in one procedure. It takes less time and it’s more accurate. Many of these 3D reconstruction techniques were pioneered here at Tufts.

We’ll discuss all the benefits, risks, and details of possible treatment plans with you thoroughly and decide as a care team on the best course of action for your family. Your pet’s health and well-being is our top priority. We dedicate our lives to healing animals and advancing veterinary care to help make a difference in the lives of all species. We are driven to provide you with the most up-to-date and honest information available. You have our genuine and compassionate advice.

If surgery is the best plan for your companion animal, you’ll have the opportunity to meet beforehand with an anesthesiologist to determine which pain management method is best for your dog, and you’ll meet post-op with our trained technical staff as well. Tufts is unique in that we have board-certified anesthesia specialists in our hospital every day, so you can be assured your dog is getting the very best care before, during, and after surgery.

Tufts orthopedic surgeons are exposed to a robust case load. In fact, we are routinely called up to work on challenging and complex problems. Whether your dog has a rare orthopedic issue, or a more common ailment, we have the expertise to diagnose and treat the problem with the latest equipment, the experience to perform the surgery, and the knowledge that comes from working in a research-driven, world-class medical institution.

Our diagnostic and treatment approach is a team process that includes you, your primary veterinarian, and Tufts specialists. Your role in your pet’s care is important. Our goal is to make sure your dog is completely comfortable and home as soon as possible in a pain-free way. Our veterinary specialists and staff are more than happy to assist there as well.

If your dog is limping, it’s important to see a veterinarian. Learn more about what to expect at your orthopedic surgery appointment here.

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