By Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Summer is here and we’re more active with our pets this time of year. Unfortunately, vets see a lot more orthopedic injuries in pets this time of year, too.
Like humans, pets have cranial and caudal cruciate ligaments – very tiny ligaments found in the knee known as the stifle. When your pet jumps up to catch that Frisbee and lands going in the wrong direction, it is similar to when you are skiing and you catch an edge. The twisting motion can stretch and tear the cruciate ligaments, most commonly the cranial cruciate, in your pet. It can also cause a tear in the meniscus, another important group of structures in your pet’s knee. If left untreated, the pet may develop painful arthritis from the longstanding instability due to the lack of one or both of the cruciate ligaments.
Glucosamine products such as “Adequan” and Hill’s Science diet “J/D” can help with some of the symptoms, but surgical repair followed by anti-inflammatory medications is usually recommended. Depending on the size, breed and activity of your pet, recovery can take up to three months.
Another common summer injury in pets that occurs in the smaller breeds of dogs and in cats is called a “patellar luxation.” This is a condition when the tiny groove where the knee cap travels is not very deep and the knee cap will slip off. It can be genetic or can occur after a trauma to the knee. In either case, surgical repair involving deepening the groove will help your pet walk more easily and avoid future arthritis. So if you see your little dachshund holding up his back leg and hopping, it’s time to get to the vet!
Other common “summer” emergencies include broken toenails and lacerated pads. Broken toenails, if not treated, can be very painful and result in bone infections in the toes. If your pet breaks a nail, it may be best to have that nail cut back and cauterized by your vet. If your pet has lacerated a pad, depending on how deep it is, a quick staple repair by your veterinarian would be in order. And remember, all lacerations need attention. They should be clipped, cleaned and taken care of immediately!
While this list only touches on some of the more common injuries we see in pets during the summertime, we hope it helps you to know what to watch for and what to do should your pet experience any of the above injuries or symptoms. Just remember, be safe and have fun.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is a graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and owns Mountain Mobile Veterinary Service in Eagle and Vail, CO. She’s a 1983 graduate of Ellicottville Central School and a frequent visitor to Ellicottville to see family. She provides this column as a public service.