Is your dog experiencing knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (the equivalent of an ACL in humans)? Surgery may be your best treatment option. In this post, our Murfreesboro veterinarians explore three surgery options for treating this common knee injury in dogs.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
To keep your dog healthy and happy, it's critical to ensure their knees are functioning properly and are pain-free.
Similar to human knees, good nutrition and an appropriate level of physical activity play a vital role in a dog's knee health.
There are numerous high-quality dog foods and supplements you can give your pup to help keep their joints in good working order. However, cruciate ligament injuries (the equivalent of ACL injuries in people) can still occur and cause severe knee pain for your dog.
A dog's knee pain can stem from a torn ligament, which can happen suddenly while your dog is running or playing, or develop gradually over an extended period of time.
What is the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) in dogs?
The CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that connect their two large leg bones. This allows their knee to move properly and without pain.
What is tibial thrust?
When your dog has torn a cruciate ligament, instability within the knee causes pain and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is an unhealthy, dysfunctional sliding that's caused by weight being transmitted up your dog's shin and across the knee, causing their shin to "thrust" forward. This movement occurs due to the top of their tibia being sloped. Your dog's injured ligament won't be able to prevent this painful movement from happening.
What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?
If an injured cruciate ligament is causing knee pain for your four-legged friend, your dog will not be able to perform a number of movements normally, such as walking or running. Other symptoms of knee injuries include:
- Reluctance to climb stairs or exercise
- Stiffness following exercise
- Limping on hind legs
- Difficulties rising up off the floor
Can surgery fix my dog's knee injury?
Ligament injuries in dogs are painful and tend not heal themselves. If your pup is showing signs of a torn ligament it's important to see your vet to have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe.
In many cases, a dog with a torn cruciate ligament in one leg, will quickly go on to injure the ligament in the healthy leg.
If your dog is suffering from a torn cruciate ligament your vet is likely to recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog regain normal mobility. You may also be referred to a veterinary specialist for further evaluation.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
- This knee surgery is often used to treat smaller dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds, and works by preventing the tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ligament has time to heal, and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
- TPLO reduces tibial thrust without having to rely on a dog's cruciate. TPLO surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of your dog's shin bone (called their tibial plateau) and then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. A metal plate will then be added to the area where the cut was made in order to stabilize the bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal to regain their strength and mobility.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
- TTA surgery involves separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone, then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section of the tibia up and forward. This can help to prevent much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its new corrected position until the bone has had adequate time to heal.
Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?
A vet will be able to do a thorough exam of your dog's knee in order to assess its movement and geometry. They will consider factors like your dog's weight, age, lifestyle and size before recommending a proper treatment.
Once the veterinarian has done a full evaluation of your pet's condition they will be able to recommend the best surgery to treat your dog's knee injury.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from knee surgery?
Healing from knee surgery is always a long process that requires patience. While many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after their surgery, a complete recover and return to their normal activities will likely take 16 weeks or more.
Following your vet's post-operative instructions carefully will help your dog to return to normal activities as quickly as safely possible, while reducing the risk of re-injuring the knee.
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.