If your dog tears a CCL ligament in their knee, repairing the injury will require knee surgery. In the following section, our veterinarians at San Jose delve into dog knee injuries and the use of surgery in their treatment.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Ensure your dog maintains an active lifestyle with healthy and pain-free knees. While your vet can recommend high-quality dog foods and supplements to keep your dog's joints in good condition, be aware that cruciate injuries (sometimes referred to as ACL injuries) can still occur and cause significant discomfort for your dog.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs
The dog's leg's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) connects the shin bone to the thigh bone, enabling proper (pain-free) knee function. A torn cruciate can cause knee pain, manifesting suddenly during exercise or gradually over time.
If your dog injures their cruciate ligament and persists in running, jumping, and playing, the injury can rapidly worsen.
Causes of Knee Injuries
If your dog has a torn cruciate, the knee's instability causes pain due to a motion known as 'tibial thrust.' Tibial thrust results from the transmission of weight up the dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, forcing the shinbone to "thrust" forward in relation to the dog's thigh bone (femur). The sloped top of the tibia and the dog's injured cruciate cannot prevent this unwanted movement, leading to the forward thrust motion.
Signs of a Dog Knee Injury
If your dog is suffering from an injured cruciate and experiencing knee pain, they will not be able to run or walk normally and will likely display other symptoms such as:
- Difficulties rising off of the floor (particularly after rest, following exercise)
- Pronounced limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
Surgical Treatment for a Torn Ligament
Cruciate injuries seldom heal without treatment. If your dog exhibits signs of a torn cruciate, promptly schedule an appointment with your vet for a diagnosis. This ensures that treatment commences before symptoms escalate. Frequently, dogs with a singular torn cruciate swiftly progress to injuring the second knee.
Upon diagnosing a torn cruciate, your vet will probably advise one of three knee surgeries to restore your canine companion's normal mobility. It's crucial to recognize that not all vets conduct these surgeries, and in certain instances, your pup may be directed to a veterinary surgeon for treatment.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is a commonly employed treatment for dogs weighing less than 50 pounds. This procedure operates by utilizing a surgically placed suture to prevent tibial thrust. The suture functions by pulling the dog's knee joint tight, thus averting the front-to-back sliding of the tibia.
This tightening facilitates the healing of the cruciate and allows the muscles surrounding the knee to regain their strength. ELSS surgery, known for its relative speed and simplicity, boasts a high success rate, particularly in small to medium-sized dogs.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO surgery offers a dependable solution for a torn cruciate by decreasing tibial thrust without depending on the dog's cruciate. This procedure includes cutting completely through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau) and then rotating the tibial plateau to alter its angle. A metal plate is introduced to stabilize the cut bone during the healing process. Following TPLO surgery, your dog's leg will gradually recover and strengthen over several months.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA is akin to TPLO but requires surgically detaching the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone. Subsequently, a spacer is inserted between the two sections to elevate and advance the front section. This surgical procedure aims to preempt much of the tibia thrust movement.
Similar to TPLO surgery, the front section of the tibia will be secured in its proper position by attaching a bone plate. This stabilization continues until the bone has had adequate time to undergo healing. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau, indicating the angle of the top section of the tibia, typically make excellent candidates for TTA surgery.
Choosing a Surgery
Your vet will thoroughly examine your dog's knee movement and geometry, considering age, weight, size, and lifestyle factors. Based on this assessment, the vet will then recommend the most suitable treatment for your dog's specific case.
Dog Recovery Time From Knee Surgery
Healing completely from knee surgery is a lengthy process. Although many dogs can walk within 24 hours after surgery, achieving full recovery and returning to normal activities requires 12-16 weeks or more. To restore your dog to regular activity levels, diligently adhere to your vet's post-operative instructions. Allowing your dog to run and jump before the knee has fully healed may result in re-injury.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.