by Ben J. Character, DVM
Orthopedics is the treatment of conditions that involve the skeletal system. The skeletal system includes muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons as well as bones.
There are several common orthopedic problems seen in dogs and cats. In general, cats are not as prone to orthopedic problems as dogs are, because they have lighter frames and are more agile. Therefore, this discussion will focus on several conditions seen in dogs.
Although most orthopedic problems are seen in dogs that weigh over 50 pounds, the medial patella luxation is a condition of the smaller breed. The origin of this problem is a malposition of the components in the knee joint and surrounding bones. Many dogs will exhibit the characteristic “hop” as the kneecap dislocates and then re-locates.
Hip dysplasia is a very common condition seen in large breed dogs. The cause of this condition is widely debated, and is probably a combination of several environmental and genetic factors. The primary problem is a malformation of the hip joint that allows abnormal motion, which then leads to arthritis. This problem can be approached in many different ways, and treatment is best if customized for the individual animal.
There are many other problems that can occur with the skeletal system, with everything from broken bones to ruptured ligaments. If not promptly treated, many orthopedic problems can lead to non-reversible arthritis. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, many can be repaired and have normal function restored. If you notice your dog or cat showing any lameness or pain associated with movement, you should contact your veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment options.