One of my biggest Veterinary interests is Orthopaedics – the study of bones and joints. An injury we see in practice is rupture of the cruciate ligament in the stifle (knee) joint.
The cruciate ligament is an important structure in dogs stifles as it holds the femur and the tibia in alignment so that the joint can function properly. In Dogs, their cruciate ligament is in tension whenever they stand so damage to the ligament leads to serious problems. The cruciate ligament can weaken over a period of time and then rupture without warning.
Rupture of the cruciate ligament leads to sudden onset pain and lameness in the affected leg, damage to the cartilage (called the meniscus) on the joint surface and the development of arthritis. In dogs with ruptured cruciate ligaments, surgery is usually required to regain good use of the leg.
A variety of surgical techniques have been used over the years to help dogs with cruciate damage. Currently we mainly use one of two techniques:
- A technique called a “fabello-tibial suture” is where a loop of nylon is fastened behind the joint then passes through a small tunnel in the front of the tibial bone. This nylon is tensioned and held in place with a small metal crimp. This technique is often successful in smaller dogs however the nylon can stretch and break with the forces a larger dog exerts.
- A relatively new technique which overcomes this problem is a procedure called a TPLO (tibial plateaux levelling osteotomy). The operation involves making a semicircular cut in the tibia with a specially sized titanium saw, then rotating the portion of bone by a certain number of degrees. The bone is then held in place with a specially designed plate and 6 screws. This effectively realigns the stifle joint so that a cruciate ligament is no longer required. Although it is much more complex surgery, the results compare very favourably with the more straightforward procedure.
Often the TPLO is a procedure which vets refer to specialist centres however we have recently invested in equipment and training and are now performing this procedure at our surgery at Maple Street. We have now performed a number of TPLO procedures and it is very rewarding to see larger dogs recovering well from their cruciate surgery. The surgical team performing the TPLO operations consists of 2 vets and 2 vet nurses.
The radiograph above shows the post-op view of Ruby Flynn, a Rottweiler from Primrose Hill who we operated on some weeks ago and is making an excellent recovery. The x ray shows the curved cut in the bone and the plate used to fix the portions of bone in place.
Having been lucky enough to get a couple of weekends of lovely weather in quick succession- unusual for Huddersfield at any time, let alone this early in the year- we’re all looking forward to summer sunshine and fun outdoors with our dogs in particular. It’s so much easier to get motivated for and enjoy walks when the sun is shining and the kids don’t need to be dragged along. We all get a bit fitter, canines and humans alike, as we make the most of the longer days, and get those joints and muscles moving and toned up.
Round about this time of year too, a quick dip starts to look like a great way to cool off after a game of football or fetch, and though alas far from the sea, we are blessed with plenty of reservoirs, canals and streams. Swimming is great all-round exercise for stamina and strength as well as being great fun for many dogs and their humans. However, before entering Fido in the 2012 Olympics (doggy paddle, of course) please take a moment to check he’s safe, as with no canine lifeguard on duty there are potential dangers lurking in our waters for the unsuspecting.
Blue green algae growth can be a serious threat especially in later summer. Blooming on the surface of the water, sometimes unpredictably, these microscopic organisms are very harmful and can even be fatal, and dogs can easily swallow them while swimming. Watch for warning signs, and avoid any water where you see a thin layer of blue-green colour. Other organisms like giardia can also be picked up from water, so if your dog needs treatment for sickness or diarrhoea and has been swimming recently, make sure to tell your vet.
It’s important to remember that no matter how hot the air is, open water temperatures in this area rarely get above about 12C even in summer, and sudden immersion in cold water can cause high blood pressure and overload the heart, especially for animals and people who already have heart or circulation problems- if this applies to your dog, ask your vet if it is likely to be safe for him to swim in cold water.
Make sure your dog can get safely in and out of the water, because he won’t stop to check….. every year a few unlucky dogs face near-drowning from jumping or falling into canals and locks especially, from which the steep sides are almost impossible for a dog to climb. Plants and weeds growing near the edges are often mistaken for grass by dogs who try to walk on them and fall in, and may even become tangled and trapped. Reservoirs sometimes have strong undercurrents where water is drawn from below the surface.
One last thing- many dogs are super keen swimmers and take to it naturally. Others however are less convinced, and it is not uncommon to hear of dogs being thrown into the water ‘to teach them to swim’, as people often believe that swimming is a natural ability of dogs. It is true that most dogs will keep themselves afloat for a while in a frantic scrabbling motion where they are nearly vertical in the water, a bit like the prancing horse on the Ferrari logo. This is not swimming, it’s panic! Dogs need to get the hang of swimming with their body horizontally and a smooth steady gliding stroke that doesn’t splash and is far more effective. If you want your dog to enjoy swimming, be safe around water and keep him fit and strong, take time to make sure he enjoys learning as you would with a child, get him out before he overtires, and make sure he is dry and warm straight away.
The New year is the traditional time when we make resolutions to adopt a healthier lifestyle and for many cat and dog owners, it is a good opportunity to review your pets weight. Weight issues are an increasingly common problem in the pet population with a recent report suggesting that as many as
50% of pets in the UK are now classified as obese.
A number of factors have contributed to the rise in pet obesity levels:
- Pet owners like to see their pet tuck into their food enthusiastically and will switch brands to find the flavour their pet enjoys the most. Food manufacturers make foods which are increasingly palatable to compete for business.
- Owners busy lifestyles often mean that pets do not receive the required level of exercise. Many people make up for not spending time with their pets by giving them food treats which further compounds the problem.
Links have now been proven between pet obesity and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, skin disease, arthritis, lung disease etc so it is very important for your pets health to control his weight.
Since we see our pets day in, day out, sometimes it is difficult to spot a gradual weight gain. If you are concerned that your pet may be gaining weight, ask a friend who has not seen your pet for some time and they may notice the difference more easily.
Obviously different breeds are different shapes and some breeds naturally carry more fat under their skin but a good rule of thumb for most breeds are that you should be able to clearly feel the ribs when you run your hands over the chest and that there should be an obvious waist between the last rib and the hips.
If you are unsure if your pet may be overweight then it is best to seek the opinion of your Vet.
Next week I hope to discuss methods of achieving weight loss and a few tips I have picked up over the years to achieve a successful outcome.
As we enter December, plans are well under way for Christmas and we all look forward to the excesses of the Festive Period. There are, however, some seasonal problems we regularly see in pets at the surgery which need careful planning to avoid.
Bloat or “gastric dilatation and volvulus” to give it its full name, can occur when a dog eats a large meal then exercises. The heavy stomach swings back and forward as the dog exercises and can twist, blocking the entry and outflow. Then, fermentation in the stomach produces gas which can not escape and the stomach rapidly becomes distended. In a very short time, the damage to the stomach lining and the effects on the circulation can become life threatening. Always exercise your dog first then feed him, not the other way round. If you are concerned your dog may have bloat then you must seek urgent veterinary attention.
Turkey bones are another common festive hazard. Chewed bones produce very sharp shards which can puncture the stomach lining. Never give your dog turkey bones and always be careful when disposing of the bones to make sure a cat or a bird can’t tear open a bin bag exposing bones which your dog can then access.
Chocolates hanging on the tree or wrapped up under the tree just smell too tempting for many pets but cocoa is toxic to animals. Most chocolates these days have quite a low cocoa content but you should never allow your pet to eat human chocolate. Animal chocolates do not contain cocoa.
Tinsle hanging on the tree can catch our eye as it sparkles in the light of the Christmas Tree Lights. Animals love tinsle and puppies and kittens find it especially hard to resist chewing on tinsle. Last year I took lengths of tinsle out of the intestines of 2 separate animals and I can assure you that it looks much less appealing at that stage.
The last week, while many of us have enjoyed the spectacle of Bonfire night, has been a stressful time for many of our pets. Many pets are sent into a blind panic at the noise made by fireworks and this can be distressing for animal and owner alike. This year, as ever, I have had many calls at the surgery from worried owners who see their pets becoming more and more distressed with every night that passes. While the fireworks might have subsided for now, the memory of the distress caused will be fresh in the mind of owner and pet alike. It is worth remembering that New Year is not so far away and making preparations early is most important.
My first suggestion is not to panic your self. Try to act as though you have not even noticed the fireworks. Our animals are often very in tune with us and they will pick up on our anxiety. If owners are not stressed by the noise outside why should the pet worry? Take your dog out before dusk falls so they do not need the toilet when the bangs and pops are at their worst. Close the curtains to block out the sight of the fireworks and deaden the sound. Turn on the TV or the Radio so there is a noise distraction. A good meal often helps us to fall asleep in the evening and the same may be true of our pets so feed them at dusk before the noise starts.
Vets used to dispense sedation drugs for pets to take on 5th November but since fireworks often go on for many nights, they are often not appropriate. A new generation of “behaviour modifying” medicines have emerged in the last few years which are much safer for your pet and often work well. Many of these medicines take some time to reach full effect so you need to plan early.
My last suggestion and possibly the most effective is “sound aversion therapy”. This involves playing a specially designed C.D. with sounds on it at low volume over a period of several months. It really does work well for many pets but if you want the dog to enjoy bringing in New Year you will need to start preparations now.