What does an Orthopedic Vet do?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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An orthopedic vet specializes in the veterinary care of animals suffering from musculoskeletal disorders. Like humans, animals are often afflicted with bone and joint deformities, fractures, nerve disorders and muscle injuries. Some of these conditions may be present from an animal’s birth or may have occurred during an athletic mishap, particularly in animals that compete in professional sports, such as dog racing or horse racing. An orthopedic vet helps animals recover from these conditions by surgical, therapeutic or other corrective means.

For animals with conditions that cannot be corrected, an orthopedic vet can assist the animal and its owner with pain management strategies. Also, vets specializing in this genre of medicine can help animals live full, mobile lives despite apparent handicaps due to a genetic disorder or an accident. Besides working with the animal, an orthopedic vet also works directly with an animal’s primary veterinarian, as well as the animal’s owners to assure that the animal gets the best possible continuum of care.

An orthopedic vet may work in a private practice or may work on the staff of a veterinary hospital or rehabilitation facility. These vets perform surgeries on animals when necessary and often work with the latest state-of-the-art equipment to help animals exercise and regain full mobility after surgery. An animal may need to stay at a facility for a limited amount of time to recuperate or an orthopedic vet may treat the animal on an outpatient basis.


Some of the more common conditions an orthopedic vet may work with include osteoarthritis, congenital birth defects, limb deformities, bone fractures, torn ligaments and hip dysplasia, which is very common in dogs. Veterinarians may also replace joints that cannot be repaired or that do not respond well to other interventions and are causing an animal pain. Veterinarians working in orthopedic care may also treat animals with neurological disorders, such as wobbler’s disease, spinal fractures or lumbosacral disease, which is a very painful condition caused by a compression of the animal’s lower back nerves.

The procedures and attentive care specifically given by an orthopedic vet often prolong an animal’s life. Many times this is done through rehabilitative therapies that follow surgical procedures such as massage, acupuncture, underwater treadmill therapy, swimming, chiropractic care and pulsed magnetic field therapy, which aids in tissue repair. Such focused care also helps the animal regain mobility and enjoy a good quality of life for her or his remaining years.


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Post 1

I have a question. Is there any kind of veterinary work that is therapeutic but not involving surgery? I would love to be a veterinarian, and the only thing I am not completely confident in myself about is having a really strong stomach.

I think I would get used to it, my stomach isn't incredibly weak or anything, it's just not made of iron. I could do lots of things in the veterinary job, but I'm not sure if surgeries would be my strong point. Would it be possible to maybe be an assistant with the surgeries and not have to conduct them?

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