If your dog is experiencing knee pain because of a torn cruciate ligament (the equivalent of ACLs in humans), surgery may be your best bet for treatment. Here, our Tigard vets look at 3 surgery options for treating this very common knee injury in dogs.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
In order for your dog to enjoy a healthy and happy life, it's critical that you help to keep their knees working pain-free and properly.
As with human knees, your dog's knee health is built on a foundation of good nutrition and an appropriate level of physical activity.
Despite the fact that you can provide your dog with a variety of high-quality dog foods and supplements to help maintain healthy joints, cruciate ligament injuries (or ACL injuries, as they are sometimes known) can still occur and cause your dog significant knee pain.
Knee pain stemming from a torn ligament 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 connecting their two large leg bones, allowing their knee to move properly and without pain.
What is tibial thrust?
When your dog has a torn cruciate ligament pain arises from instability within the knee, and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is an unhealthy sliding caused by the transfer of weight up your dog's shin and across their knee, which causes their shin to "thrust" forward. This movement happens because the top of their tibia is sloped and your dog's injured ligament won't be able to prevent this painful movement from occurring.
What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?
If your dog is experiencing knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament, they will be unable to perform a number of normal activities, including walking and running. Additional knee injury symptoms to watch for include:
- Reluctance to exercise or climb stairs
- Difficulties rising up off of the floor
- Limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
Can surgery repair my dog's knee injury?
Ligament injuries in dogs are typically painful and do not heal on their own. If your puppy exhibits symptoms of a torn ligament, it is imperative that you take him to the veterinarian for a diagnosis so that treatment can begin before the symptoms worsen.
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.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
- This knee surgery is frequently used to treat smaller dogs weighing less than 50 pounds. It works by preventing tibial thrust through the surgical placement of a suture. The suture stabilizes your dog's knee by pulling the joint together and preventing the tibia from sliding forward and backward, allowing the ligament to heal and the surrounding muscles to regain strength.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
- TPLO reduces tibial thrust without using a dog's cruciate ligament. TPLO surgery involves making a complete cut through the tibial plateau (the top of your dog's shin bone) and then rotating the tibial plateau to alter its angle. In order to stabilize the bone as it heals, a metal plate will be added to the area where the incision was made. Your dog's leg will gradually recover its strength and mobility over the course of several months.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
- TTA surgery involves separating the front portion of the tibia from the rest of the bone, then inserting a spacer between the two sections to elevate and advance the front portion of the tibia. This can help to prevent the majority of the tibia thrust movement. A bone plate will be attached to hold the corrected position of the tibia's anterior portion until the bone has had sufficient time to heal.
Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?
A veterinarian will be able to examine your dog's knee thoroughly in order to assess its movement and geometry. Before recommending an appropriate treatment, they will consider your dog's age, size, lifestyle, and other factors.
Once your vet 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?
Knee surgery recovery is always a lengthy process that requires patience. Although many dogs are able to walk within 24 hours of surgery, a full recovery and return to normal activities will likely take 16 weeks or longer.
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.