An inside look into total joint replacements for dogs 

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NORTH HAVEN – Pet owners often drop everything for their animals in order to get them the care they need. One Connecticut family went all paws in to get their dog a new hip.

The Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, Inc. in North Haven has a joint replacement program to get hurt animals back up and running in no time.

"Lady" is a two-year-old female Labrador Retriever mix who was adopted by the O’Connor family of Middlebury in December.

“She was the first one we saw and grabbed her,” owner Julie O’Connor said. “Lady jumped in our car and planted herself in the backseat as if it was hers. She tippy-toed in the house and sat in a big chair that is now hers. She is very respectful in the home, the relationship was perfect.”

Lady was on a routine run with a family member when she got spooked by a car, got out of her collar and ran off. Lady was missing for a whole month and was on her own during a blizzard in February.

“For people who have pets, it's like a person that's a part of your family,” owner Madeline O’Connor said. “Losing one of them, it’s really sad, you don't know how to react.”

With the help of community members, Lady was found about a month after she went missing in Waterbury, far from her Middlebury home.

O’Connor said Lady was feeble, flea infested and in fear. Veterinarian Dr. Melvyn Pond with Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, said she was likely hit by a car.

Lady is a dog that loved to run but could barely walk so Dr. Pond recommended a total hip replacement.

Dr. Pond has been performing total hip replacements for about 40 years. Initially the implants were miniaturized human implants but procedures have evolved to instruments designed specifically for dogs and cats.

“Canine total hip replacement is a procedure in which the arthritic hip joint surfaces are replaced with a new prosthetic ball and socket. The prosthesis is designed to fit precisely and mimics the anatomy of the original joint. The arthritic joint is pain free after total hip replacement,” according to company Bio Medtrix.

These procedures are becoming more common worldwide, but Dr. Pond said Central Hospitol is one of few places to go in Connecticut for total joint replacements.

The hospital performs about three to four joint replacements on an average month.

Total knee replacements are a newer procedure. Only 300 have been done around the world since 2005. According to Ken Aldrich, Director for Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, the hospital has done about 80 total knee procedures.

Recovery from these procedures requires care and cooperation by the owner. It takes weeks of restricted activity and rehabilitation is recommended.

Three weeks after Lady’s surgery, she stopped in for a visit and Jill Bruno, certified vet technician and K9 rehab specialist, said she looked fantastic.

“We introduced Lady to the underwater treadmill,” Bruno said. “The underwater treadmill is something we use quite regularly in animal rehab, it helps us to judge the dogs gate on a moving belt just like a human treadmill would.”

Lady’s surgery was almost fully covered by insurance, but Alrdich said only about three percent of animals nationwide are insured, recommending pet owners look into pet insurance.

“Unfortunately accidents are the time a lot of pet owners find out about pet insurance,” Aldrich said. “This owner probably saved a little over $4 thousand because of the presence of pet insurance.”

The O’Connor family said they are pleased with Lady’s procedure and recovery.

“She plays with our other puppy all the time, jumping around, she'll run in the yard and she acts like how she was when we first got her,” Madeline said.” She’s like a puppy again.”