What is a total knee replacement in dogs?

A total dog knee replacement is a surgical procedure in which proper and pain-free function of the knee joint is restored by replacing the damaged joint with an artificial version

It is the only procedure that restores full mobility to the damaged knee joint, meaning your dog can lead a happy and healthy life with no limitations following treatment.

How can I tell if my pet needs a dog knee replacement?

Generally, your dog will need a knee replacement if they are presenting painful joint conditions, stiffness of movement or limping, usually as a result of osteoarthritis, trauma or other injuries.

If these symptoms are unresponsive to other treatments such as pain medication, veterinary physiotherapy or rehabilitation, a total knee replacement may be needed.

When would dog knee replacement surgery not be performed?

It is important to note that total joint replacement surgery is complicated and serious and may not be necessary if your dog’s condition can be managed with rehabilitation, physical therapy or pain management drugs.

If this is the case, it’s unlikely that the procedure will be recommended. Similarly, your pet needs to be in good general health in order to be eligible for the surgery.

vets wheeling dog into surgery

What does dog knee replacement surgery involve?

Initially, a few weeks before surgery, your dog will undergo a series of tests and scans, such as advanced imaging, a Computed Tomography scan (CT scan), a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI scan) or x-rays. This is to properly plan for the procedure along with blood tests to rule out any other conditions and to check your pet is in good general health.

During a dog knee replacement procedure, the entire knee joint is replaced and removed with an artificial version. The procedure begins by exposing the knee joint through an incision on the side of the knee and the joint surfaces are then replaced using artificial components to replace the damaged joint surface. Finally, the surgeon will then check the stability of the knee along with ensuring it has a full range of movement.

Are there any risks?

As with any major surgery, there are risks that may occur after the procedure. The most serious risk is the loosening of the implant along with any infections. However, these are rare and with the correct post-op treatment plan, unlikely.

vet surgeon performing procedure

How do I look after my dog if they’ve had knee replacement surgery?

After any major surgery, it’s necessary to make a few adjustments to ensure your dog can heal properly and isn’t overly exerting itself. While aftercare depends entirely on the individual case, there are a number of things you can do to help keep your dog comfortable during the healing process.

Strict exercise management

Following a dog knee replacement, your pet will require rest and minimal exercise in order to rebuild strength in the affected limb and joint. Ensure they follow a restricted activity schedule with minimal exercise only when bathroom trips are needed, at least for the first 10 days. After this time, your dog will likely be placed on a specific exercise programme to help them regain normal activity levels.


Our orthopedic specialists will usually prescribe your dog with medication in order to manage pain and to control inflammation. It’s important that you keep on top of the recommended medication schedule to ensure your dog is in as little pain as possible. There are also several different supplements that can help to maintain and manage joint health.

Physical therapy

Your orthopaedic specialist may also suggest rehabilitation and veterinary physiotherapy, such as hydrotherapy to improve mobility and strength.

Follow Up Appointments

It is also likely that you’ll be required to take your pet in for follow up appointments to ensure everything is going well with their recovery. It is important that you stick to these appointments in case there are any problems.

What is the prognosis and how long will the dog knee replacement last for?

When it comes to a dog knee replacement, the goal is to usually help with restoring normal function along with managing pain or discomfort. While full recovery from a total knee replacement can take several months, success rates depend entirely on activity levels and whether or not the prosethes loosens, along with any other pre-existing conditions or the presence of any infection.

While there isn’t much evidence after five years of follow up in dogs, implants can last more than 15 years and so it’s likely that following the procedure, your dog will not require any more surgery in their lifetime.

If you’re a pet owner and your dog needs or has recently undergone a knee replacement, we are here for you every step of the way. Here at Dogwood Referrals, we have a specialist team of veterinary professionals who love animals just as much as you do. We prioritise the wellbeing of your pets and work closely with you to determine the right course of action that’s in their best interest.

If you’re a referring vet and want to get in touch with us regarding a dog knee replacement, use our simple referral form or get in touch with us today.