What is “Elective” Pet Surgery?

Our team at On the Spot specializes in elective orthopedic and soft tissue surgeries. If you’re curious about the difference between elective and non-elective procedures, read on for a brief explanation.


Elective surgeries correct injuries or impairments that impede your pet’s health and/or mobility. If this course of treatment is advised, you have time to research your options and the operation itself, and can select the optimal care facility and timing.

Surgeries that are not a medical emergency but are likely to become life-threatening with time are sometimes referred to as semi-elective. You still schedule such operations, but with more urgency.

In short, with elective (and semi-elective) procedures you maintain control over the surgical care process and have time to weigh options.

Common elective surgeries for pets include:

  • TPLO (tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy)
  • Lateral Suture Correction
  • Luxating kneecap correction
  • Hernia removal
  • Splenectomy
  • Amputations
  • Mass/tumor removal
  • Cystotomy
  • Cherry Eye Tucks
  • Spay/Neuter
  • Much more!

Elective procedures help your pup get back to a healthy, active lifestyle!⁣


On the opposite end of the spectrum is emergency surgery – procedures that must be performed immediately to stabilize a patient that is critically ill or injured. These surgeries are not scheduled in advance, and proximity of the hospital is often the priority.⁣ As the pet owner you have little control over the situation aside from the initial decision to seek immediate care, and acting quickly to save your pet.

Incidents like being hit by a car or ingesting something dangerous are the types of situations that call for non-elective, emergency surgery. We advise you to contact a nearby animal hospital rather than a veterinary clinic if your pet is experiencing sudden or serious injury or illness. Hospitals are often open during non-business hours, and you can call ahead to let them know what to expect when you arrive.

In a perfect world your pets would never need surgical care beyond the traditional spay or neuter procedure. Unfortunately, though, they aren’t invulnerable to physical ailments; we can only hope they don’t require emergency surgery.

For any elective needs that may arise, our skilled and compassionate surgical team will be there every step of the way!

Changes Dogs Undergo as They Age

If it was up to us, our four-legged friends would stay young forever. Even though that’s not the case, dogs maintain their loyal and lovable nature no matter how old they are! How can you maintain their health and happiness as they age? Here are the the common changes and ailments senior dogs face that you should pay attention to and address if necessary.

Skin and coat changes: Dogs often start to show gray hair as they get older, often around their muzzle and eyes. Their fur can also change in thickness and texture, but dull coats may be helped with certain supplements. As for skin, it can also become thinner with age, and therefore becomes susceptible to injury. Look out for wounds that don’t heal (could be an immune system deficiency) or for bumps on your dog’s skin. These are often benign tumors that don’t require removal unless they are prone to trauma, but any lump should be checked by a vet.

It’s also common for a older dogs, especially large breeds, to develop calluses on their elbows from spending more time laying down. You should also keep an eye on the foot pads (which can become worn with age) and nails (which may need trimmed more frequently) of your aging pet.

Weight and nutritional need changes: Just like humans, dogs’ metabolism changes as they get older. They require fewer calories due to decreased energy requirement and decreased activity, but they have other dietary requirement, like more fiber and less fat intake. Obesity is a very common issue for senior dogs which can lead to additional health problems. Your vet can help you determine the proper diet for your dog at all stages of life, especially the later years.

Arthritis and mobility issues: Arthritis is a common occurrence in larger breeds, breeds prone to Intervertebral Disc Disease (like Dachshunds and Basset Hounds), and dogs with past joint injuries. Arthritis severity ranges from stiffness to complete debilitation. It often causes hind leg weakness and trouble navigating stairs and rough terrain. Fortunately there are medications to ease the pain of arthritis.

Inactivity in senior dogs leads to loss of muscle mass, which in turn makes activity more difficult. Avoid this cycle by exercising your pet to maintain tone. Ask your vet for exercise recommendations that conform to your dog’s abilities.

Vision and hearing loss: Hearing loss affects some dogs, and you may not notice it until your dog stops obeying commands or is startled by your approach because he couldn’t hear you. Teaching hand signals at a young age can be beneficial should issues develop, and there are lots of other signals you can establish with your dog to compensate for hearing impairment.

A condition called Nuclear Sclerosis is common for senior dogs, and while it makes eyes look cloudy, it doesn’t affect vision. Cataracts and glaucoma, which are often seen in certain breeds, do affect vision. Your dog’s routine physical exam should include and eye exam as well.

A dog with either vision or hearing loss may need special attention to help avoid potential dangers.

Changing immunity and organ function: Older dogs are more prone to infectious diseases because their immune systems do not function as well as when they are young. These diseases are also usually more severe. Keeping up with vaccinations into your dog’s senior years can help protect him from illness.

The heart decreases in efficiency as a dog ages, which can impact the function of other vital organs. Your vet can run diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has heart disease, and may prescribe medications to help control it.

The lungs of senior dogs lose elasticity, which decreases lung capacity. This can lead to respiratory infections or cause your dog to tire more easily.

Dental Care: Dental disease is highly prevalent in dogs, with many as young as three showing signs of gum disease. Bad breath could be a sign of an underlying oral problem. Regular tooth brushing, cleanings, and dental examinations are important for keeping breath fresh and preventing disease. Don’t fret if your senior dog needs to have a tooth pulled – dogs who loose teeth can still live and eat happily!

Changing behavior and activity level: There are many reasons an aging dog may act differently, some more severe than others. For example, nervous system issues can lead to cognitive dysfunction, which may present as confusion, restlessness, or inactivity. Dogs can also develop dementia when they are older.

More commonly, many senior dogs do not handle stress well. they may develop more aggression or separation anxiety. Certain medications can help with such problems.

Your dog acting differently could simply indicate he’s not feeling well. An underlying issue may be causing discomfort or pain. Keep an eye on your dog’s activity or behavior and report anything that seems out of the ordinary to your veterinarian so that anything serious can be appropriately addressed.

As dogs age, they go through many completely natural changes. However, they are also increasingly prone to more serious health complications. That’s why many vets recommend routine exams every 6 months once they reach a certain age. The best things you can do for your older pets is monitor health and behavior changes, take them in for those regular vet visits, and of course show them lots of love!

Luxating Patella in Dogs

Basic information on identification, risk factors, and treatment of the condition.

Patellar Luxation is dislocation of the kneecap. Healthy movement of the knee joint is facilitated by the patella moving along a groove beneath the patellar ligament, between the femur and tibial bone. When the patella is pulled outside of the groove during motion, pain and discomfort can occur.

If your dog is suffering this condition, you may notice these symptoms:

  • Limping
  • Lameness
  • Abnormal hind limb movement
  • Inability to bend knee
  • Swollen knee joint
  • Cries of pain when the limb is used

A Luxating Patella can be genetic or caused by trauma. Many small breeds, like Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Maltese, have a genetic predisposition for the condition. Female dogs are also much more likely to develop it.

Patellar Luxation may become worse if left untreated. There are various grades of severity, from occasional luxation with force (specific movements), to frequent luxation, to nearly constant luxation, i.e., the kneecap is always dislocated. Dogs with cases on the mild end of the spectrum often have manageable symptoms; they can learn to manipulate their leg to relocate the kneecap and carry on with activity. Some dogs even go their entire lives with the condition.

However, more severe cases may require surgery for correction. Recovery for these procedures is relatively quick and involves limited activity for a while. Most dogs regain proper function of their knee joint, and although there’s a chance of the condition returning, it will not be as serious as the initial occurrence. Your veterinarian or surgeon will be able to explain and recommend the best surgical approach for your dog’s circumstances.

The big problem with Patellar Luxation in dogs is that it can cause other issues or lead to long term conditions. If serious cases are not addressed in a timely manner, arthritis can occur in the knee joint. Then, even after surgical repair of the luxating kneecap, arthritis may progress and cause pain and immobility as the dog ages. Typically, the more severe the luxation, the higher the chance of it reoccuring. Severe patellar luxation also increases the likelihood of other injuries, such as cruciate ligament tears.

Don’t ignore a suspected luxating patella – schedule an exam for your pet. Your vet will be able to determine whether that is the culprit and the severity. If surgery is recommended for your dog and you’re worried about the high costs of a referral, contact us to discuss our mobile surgery services.

TPLO: What is it, and Why Choose it?

Let’s start with the basics – TPLO stands for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, and it’s a procedure used to correct a torn or injured CCL (Cranial Cruciate Ligament) which is the canine equivalent to the human ACL. TPLO is an invasive surgery, but is considered the gold-standard correction for a torn CCL.

How it works: The procedure involves adjusting the proximal tibia to eliminate the need of the CCL for stabilizing the knee joint. During surgery, a TPLO-specific saw is used to make a very precise cut through the tibial plateau, altering its slope. It is then rotated slightly. This stops the femur from sliding down the tibial plateau when the knee is bearing weight. Once the correction/rotation is made, a specialized plate and set of screws is used to secure the bone. 

The benefits: TPLO surgery has a faster recovery time than other procedures, and is best for avoiding long-term pain medications. TPLO may help prevent the progression of arthritis better than other procedures. It allows very active dogs, such as ones that do competitive or performance athletics, to resume normal exercise. Success rates for this surgery are very high, and the rate of complications is minimal.

TPLO is the go-to for large breeds, active dogs, and young dogs. There are some cases, such as anatomical traits, or size and age factors, that could warrant alternative procedures. We are happy to discuss your specific situation and help determine if TPLO is right for your dog.

You can learn about our recovery regimen for this procedure and some of the alternatives to TPLO surgery here.

4 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

One of the first things we do when we’re feeling under the weather is tell someone, either to inform them that we can’t perform regular activities, or to request their aid. When we see a doctor we tell them what symptoms we’re experiencing and we answer their questions to help them choose the best care plan. Because we can easily communicate with others how we feel and what we need, our ailments are generally quickly addressed and we’re on the mend in no time.

Animals, however, are not so fortunate. Our pets can’t tell us where it hurts. They can’t let us know they’re feeling sick. If we don’t witness the accident, we may not know that an injury is causing discomfort. That’s why it’s so important as a pet owner to familiarize yourself with your pet’s behavior and habits, and always keep an eye out for deviations.

Here are four types of changes you may see if your dog is experiencing pain or sickness.

Changes in basic activity/needs. Loss of appetite, difficulty eating, or drinking less water may be among the first red flags you notice. A dog that is in pain may also sleep more than usual – they are either trying to heal or fatigued from an underlying problem, or it is too difficult to go about regular activity. You should also watch for excessive self-grooming. Dogs lick their paws or wounds to soothe themselves and help healing, sometimes even when the injury is internal.

Changes in demeanor/behavior. Any dog that is usually friendly can become aggressive when feeling pain. Outgoing, happy dogs that are hurt or sick may exhibit antisocial behavior and hide away from owners. Increased vocalization, such as more yelping, snarling, or howling, is cause for concern. If your normally sweet pet is growling or snapping at you, or stops greeting you at the door, it could be a sign of a health problem.

Changes in movement. If your dog is normally active but has lost interest in playtime, it could be a sign that something is wrong. You may also notice limping, slowness, or reluctance/difficulty with usual maneuvers. Restlessness, like excessive pacing or lack of sleep, are also cause for concern.

Changes in body – appearance and function. Visible swelling in the body is an obvious sign that something isn’t right with your dog. Troubled breathing, like excessive panting and shallow breaths, are also clear indicators of a health problem when exercise is absent. Don’t dismiss shaking and trembling or oddly rigid postures; these could be warning signs of serious internal ailments.

Nobody knows your dog like you. As pet owners, we assume responsibility of knowing what is normal for our pets and what could be a sign of sickness or injury. If your dog exhibits a strange behavior or symptom, contact a veterinary professional. Never attempt to treat your pets with medications intended for humans. Your vet may prescribe common pain relievers, but certain types and doses can be toxic. While certain health conditions may be rare, it’s better to find out something is minor and not cause for concern than let a potentially deadly problem go untreated.

Tips for Moving and Caring for an Injured Pet

In some point in your time as a pet owner, it’s likely your furry companion will need your assistance in moving from one place to another. Whether it’s after surgery, after an injury, or simply old age, here are some tips for keeping your pet safe and comfortable while transporting or moving him.

1. Give your care provider a heads up. Call ahead to your vet clinic or the animal hospital to let them know you’re coming and what to expect. That way, they can prepare to assist with transport upon your arrival.

2. Keep your pet calm. Sit next to your pet, speaking to him in and soothing, comforting tone. It’s important that you stay calm, too. Even though it may be your natural reaction when your dog is frightened, you should avoid hugging, holding, or any other stimulating interactions that could worry or excite him.

3. Minimize handling (after an accident). In cases of physical trauma, it can be impossible to know the extent of your pet’s injuries, and any manipulation of his body could lead to further injury. Do not prod, shift, or move your pet beyond what is absolutely necessary to get him to safety or emergency care. All movements must be slow and steady. Try to stabilize visible injuries with a splint or bandage.

4. Minimize handling (after surgery). When your dog has just been through a surgery or other corrective procedure, avoiding unnecessary movement is the best route to quick recovery. Speak with your vet about how you should limit your dog’s motion and the best ways for you to help him carry out necessary activities while healing. You can read more in our post on keeping your dog inactive after surgery.

5. Lifting and carrying. Small dogs are a breeze – just put them in their carrier and make sure they are secure to avoid too much movement. However, large dogs can be too heavy for one person to lift alone, or in too delicate a state to be lifted by hand no matter how many helpers you have. Instead, use a stretcher (any strong, flat surface, or even a rug or blanket, should work) with some type or restraint or barrier to keep the dog in place when lifting.

6. Protect yourself and your dog from aggression. Even docile dogs can become aggressive when in pain or distress. Approach your pet cautiously from the side and avoid the mouth area. If necessary, gently muzzle and create a temporary restraint with towels or blankets to prevent your dog from hurting himself or others. If a dog is vomiting, never muzzle him.

7. Plan ahead for the unexpected. It doesn’t hurt to have a first aid kit with a muzzle, leash, blankets, and other items that can help protect your dog on the way to emergency or veterinary care. You should also have your pet’s medical records in a convenient location.

If accidents can happen to us, they can certainly happen to our pets, too. Part of being an attentive pet owner is preparing yourself for the unexpected, and educating yourself on how to handle emergencies that require calming, stabilizing, and transporting an injured animal.

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Dog ACL/CCL Repair
– TPLO Surgery
– Lateral Suture Correction
Luxating Patella Corrections
Soft Tissue Procedures

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