Orthopedic Surgery for a Dog: Is It Worth It and How Much Does It Cost?

Updated on November 6, 2018
Connor the Alaskan Husky
Connor the Alaskan Husky | Source

My Experience with Pet Orthopedic Surgery

Whenever he bowls over me on a morning walk to run further away from a loud or fast-moving car, I think about Connor's brush with death in August, 2008.

Connor is my totally adorable male Alaskan husky. He is the most patient, cuddly guy I've ever met. He would also make at least runner-up in a world's most expensive $100 dog contest. The following account is a (slightly) humorized account of his accident, surgery, and recovery. He evidently remembers the experience well enough to remain afraid of loud and fast vehicles to this day, which is fairly remarkable for a dog. But, then, he's a pretty remarkable guy!

Luna is a homebody
Luna is a homebody | Source

Dog Escapes!

One afternoon, shortly after Connor, and his best friend Luna, had moved to a new house with a fun back yard, Connor was testing the limits of his new fence. Being a husky, he became excited and started to dig vigorously. Before he knew it, where the fence had previously met the ground, suddenly there was a convenient spot to wriggle under the fence. Not one to pass up the opportunity to explore a new location, Connor made his escape. Luna, a thoughtful and emotional German Shepherd, realized that leaving the yard would be an excellent way to get in trouble with her human parents and declined to follow Connor's lead.

Connor post-accident is too pitiful to show. Instead, here is is trying to fit in a too-small chair.
Connor post-accident is too pitiful to show. Instead, here is is trying to fit in a too-small chair. | Source

Dog Hit by Car

At some point in the following minutes, Connor wandered across the street behind his house. It was only a one block residential street with a posted 25 mph speed limit. As a large white dog standing on black asphalt in the daytime, he should have been easy to spot. Unfortunately, a car turned on to the street at a careless, excessive speed. Connor tried to escape, but was hit in the rear as he ran for safety. The force of the impact broke his pelvis in three places and caused him to face plant into the road, tearing up his muzzle and breaking a toe.

A neighbor noticed Connor, blood staining his white fur, whimpering on the side of the road, and hurried to tell Connor's humans. Connor was rushed to the vets and an ordeal began.

How could I deprive this girl of her best buddy?
How could I deprive this girl of her best buddy? | Source

Orthopedic Surgery: The Dilemma

I can't really go into that much detail about the next few weeks without tearing up, even this far from the event. I'm sure that seems silly to some people, but you would understand if you knew this dog. His injuries were so severe the vet said she would OK putting him down. The other alternatives were allowing him to live and hope he healed on his own or getting him orthopedic surgery. The surgery seemed prohibitively expensive and input from acquaintances varied from “get him the surgery” to “he's just a dog, put him down.”

BFFs
BFFs | Source

The Decision to get Orthopedic Surgery

For the first week or so, I used the 'wait and see' approach. The poor dog was on several medications to prevent infection, mitigate inflammation, and reduce his pain level. When it became clear his condition was not improving, the decision was made to take him to a vet who specialized in orthopedic surgery for pets.

Connor's surgery took place in Columbia, SC at South Carolina Veterinary Specialists. I cannot say enough good things about them. They estimated the surgery would cost $1500-2000, including an overnight stay and follow-up visit. Given my experience with other cost estimates, I fully expected to pay more than the quoted upper end. Instead, I received exemplary service, including a post-op phone call from the surgeon, for $1750. After six weeks of restricted movement for Connor, I drove the now uncomfortably energetic animal for his check-up. X-rays showed his fractures had healed seamlessly and he was cleared to resume normal activity levels.

White Alaskan Husky Connor
White Alaskan Husky Connor | Source

The Cost of Orthopedic Surgery

Between the surgery, initial emergency vet visit, an additional overnight stay at the vet's prior to his referral to the specialist and his surgery, Connor the $100 dog racked up $3000 in bills. A year before adopting Connor, if someone had told me I would own two dogs and would have paid for one of them to have orthopedic surgery, I would have informed them that I didn't even like dogs. But that was before meeting Connor and Luna.

Connor Dog Chasing his Tail

Clearly Connor healed up pretty well if he can jump around like this after his own tail!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Connor running at the parkThe dog is good as new after his orthopedic surgery. You would never even guess he'd been hit by a car.
Connor running at the park
Connor running at the park | Source
The dog is good as new after his orthopedic surgery. You would never even guess he'd been hit by a car.
The dog is good as new after his orthopedic surgery. You would never even guess he'd been hit by a car. | Source

Is Orthopedic Surgery Worth it? Absolutely!

Today, Connor is happy, healthy and you could never even tell he has a metal plate in his pelvis. I know everyone thinks their pet is the best, but Connor might be the real deal. I firmly believe I could have taken that $3000, adopted 300 other dogs, and have not found an adequate replacement for Connor, or a better 'brother' for Luna.

I hope Connor's story helps someone else make a difficult decision about a pet, or lets other pet-lovers know they're not the only one who has made sacrifices for the sake of a beloved animal.

Would you get a pet orthopedic surgery?

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Rydberg 

        15 hours ago

        About to take our Service Dog (mini dachshund, no less... my wife is a dog trainer and trained her to help with glaucoma) to the ortho surgeon.

        She is 10 years old and is more than just a useful animal. She is, and has been, part of the family since she was adopted when she was 6 mo. old. hopefully she can be helped.

      • profile image

        Ro W. 

        5 weeks ago

        God Bless you and your dogs!!

      • profile image

        Shirlee 

        6 months ago

        I am in the process locating a vet for my Service Animal, Taco. He is a Beagle fourteen years young. He needs back surgery for his pain and disc. He is the love of my life and this is so heart-painful. I am on SS and started a GO Fund me page. I need to find a Vet that can do this type of surgery. HELP ME

      • profile image

        Lucy Arnott 

        8 months ago

        Thankyou sooooo much for this. My best friend got hit by a motorbike today. Fractured hip, mild fracture to pelvis and dislocated the other hip. He’s usually very tough, agile, strong and muscly. Hearing your beautiful digs story, I now have faith that my favourite ‘person’ in the world will be ok.

      • profile image

        Sharon 

        11 months ago

        Thanks for sharing your story, I am on my way to the specialist now with my girl Dixie. She too has a double fractured pelvis abd needs a plate.

      • profile image

        Beth 

        3 years ago

        Thank you for the article. Trying to decide on surgery for our three legged Corgi. Appreciate your experience.

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        4 years ago from Hawaii

        Pets really do become family! I hope your pup's surgery goes well.

      • profile image

        Caryn 

        4 years ago

        Thanks for your post. I found it while googling: have to decide on a US$2,000 surgery for a leg fracture on my "failed foster" mongrel.

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        Don't embarrass the poor guy with photos of that! He looked like Frankenstein's dog with his shaved parts and 19 staples. But he loved when you played him AC/DC or the piano so he could sing along.

      • profile image

        TatianaH 

        6 years ago

        I didn't know him very well when he'd gotten hurt but I definitely cannot imagine having no Nort around today! He's such a beautiful, happy guy. I might have some pictures around of him wearing the Cone of Shame. He was pitiful at first but he bounced right back to health!

      • Dog Advisor profile image

        Sarah Falkner 

        6 years ago from www.facebook.com/Family Dog Advice

        It seems that we both feel the same way about our dogs. Yours are absolutely beautiful...if you go to my hub, you can see a pic of my sweet Daisy.

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        Dog Advisor - I know it sounds silly, but writing this made me tear up, even though he's happy and healthy today.

      • Dog Advisor profile image

        Sarah Falkner 

        6 years ago from www.facebook.com/Family Dog Advice

        I started crying when I 1st read of Conner's injury. I would pay anything to keep my dog, Daisy, healthy and happy. Glad you now have discovered pet insurance. Great emotional story!

      • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        I found out about pet insurance after the fact. Wish I'd had it! Thanks for reading and the vote.

      • BRIAN SLATER profile image

        Brian Slater 

        6 years ago from England

        Hi, loved your story. I know from experience just how much you get to like your dog, personally for all the love and devotion your pet will give you over the nexy few years, it will be money well spent.

        In the UK we can get pet insurance to offset surgical cost and I would certainly recommend having it. Glad it all turned out right in the end :) voted up

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