Of all the injuries dogs can get in their knees, cruciate ligament tears are the most common. Today, our Tigard vets explain the causes of cruciate ligament tears in dogs and how they can be treated with surgery.
A Dog's Cranial Cruciate Ligament
The cranial cruciate ligament is one of two ligaments dogs have in their knees. It's a band of connective tissue that helps connect the femur and tibia (the bones located above and under the knee) allowing the knee to function. This is also the ligament that is most prone to getting injured.
A dog's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans and just like cruciate ligament ruptures in dogs, people are often subject to ACL tears.
A dog's cruciate ligament can rupture suddenly (acute rupture) or slowly tear, getting worse until a complete rupture occurs.
Signs of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Ruptures in Dogs
Here are the signs your dog may have ruptured/ torn their CCL:
- Sudden pain in the leg
- Instability in your pup's knee
- Swelling around the knee
- Weakness in the back leg
- Favoring one leg over the other
- Stiffness after exercise
If you think your dog may have a torn cranial cruciate ligament call your vet as quickly as possible to schedule an appointment.
Types of Surgical Treatments For Dogs With Cranial Cruciate Ligament Ruptures
Surgery isn't always needed to treat dogs with cranial cruciate ligament tears, specifically for small dogs that weigh less than 10 kg (22 lbs), if their exercise levels are seriously restricted with methods such as cage rest for about six weeks. However, dogs that are larger than this typically require orthopedic Surgery.
Below we discuss the two most common types of orthopedic surgeries vets use to treat CCL ruptures in dogs.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
With this surgical technique, the need for the CCL ligament is eliminated by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau, then stabilizing it in a new position with a plate and screws.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement - TTA
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement surgery is less invasive than other types of surgical procedures used to treat a torn CCL such as TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy). TTA surgery also eliminates the need for the CCL ligament by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and then stabilizing it in its new position with a stainless steel metal plate. Tibial Tuberosity Advancement surgery is typically performed in dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia). Your veterinarian will assess the geometry of your dog's knee to decide if TTA surgery is the best surgical treatment for your dog's torn CCL.
What You Can Expect From Your Dog's Surgery
Your veterinarian will start by assessing your dog's knee to determine the extent of the injury, its severity, and which of the above surgeries your pooch may require. Some tests and diagnostics your vet might conduct include:
- X-rays of the stifle and tibia
- Palpation (your dog may be sedated or given light anesthesia for this)
- Laboratory analysis of fluid drawn from the knee
Your dog's surgery might be scheduled for the same day these tests are conducted or at a later date depending on various factors, such as your vet's availability and the severity of your dog's condition.
Your dog will be sedated with anesthesia for their surgery, at this time your vet will also provide your pup with painkillers and antibiotics to help manage pain and prevent infection. After the surgery, your dog may be given a bandage. In many cases, patients can go home the day after their procedure.
The Dog's Recovery Process After CCL Surgery
After their surgery, it could take your dog 16 weeks or more to make a full recovery. It's essential to follow all of the post-operative care instructions your vet gives you carefully. Your vet will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics and painkillers when they send your dog home after their surgery. If your dog has a habit of licking their wound they might also be given an Elizabethan collar to wear while the incision site heals.
You will have to visit your vet during the first couple of weeks after your dog's surgery so they can check in on the recovery process, and remove any sutures.
It's also important to restrict your dog's activity and movements, limiting them to toiletry purposes only. You must keep your pooch on a leash to prevent any running, stair climbing, and jumping. When they are off of their leash you have to keep your pup in a small room or pen to prevent these movements. After several weeks have passed you may gradually increase your dog's activity and movement.
After approximately 6 to 8 weeks have gone by since your pooch's procedure you will have a follow-up appointment with your veterinarian. At this visit, your vet will monitor the function of your dog's leg, take X-rays to assess the healing of the cut bone, and provide you with advice about increasing your dog's daily activity. Additional tests and evaluations may be recommended based on your dog's individual case.
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.