If your dog tears a CCL ligament in their knee, they will probably need knee surgery to fix the injury. In the following section, our veterinarians at Lebanon talk about dog knee injuries and how they use surgery to help them get better.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Your dog needs healthy and pain-free knees to stay active and happy. Your vet can suggest good dog foods and supplements to keep your dog's joints in great shape. But watch out for cruciate injuries, also known as ACL injuries, as they can hurt your dog a lot.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs
The dog has a special ligament called the cranial cruciate ligament (also known as CCL, ACL, or just cruciate) in its leg. This ligament connects the shin bone to the thigh bone and helps the knee work properly without causing pain.
Sometimes, a dog's knee can hurt because this ligament gets torn. This might happen suddenly when the dog is running or playing, but it can also happen slowly over time. The injury could worsen quickly if your dog hurts its cruciate ligament and keeps running, jumping, and playing.
Causes of Knee Injuries
If your furry friend has a torn cruciate, it hurts because the knee wobbles and slides in a way we call 'tibial thrust.
Tibial thrust is like when you slide down a slippery slide. It happens when the weight goes up your dog's leg bone (tibia) and across the knee. This makes the leg bone move forward, sort of like a racecar speeding ahead compared to the thigh bone. This happens because the top of the tibia is sloped, and the hurt cruciate can't stop this sliding and wobbling from happening.
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 don't usually get better on their own. If you notice your dog showing signs of a torn cruciate, scheduling an appointment with your vet is crucial. Your vet can diagnose the condition and start treatment before it gets worse. Sometimes, dogs with one torn cruciate end up hurting their other knee, too.
If your vet confirms a torn cruciate, they might suggest one of three knee surgeries to help your furry friend move around like they used to. It's good to know that not all vets do these surgeries, so your pup might need to see a specialist vet for treatment in some situations.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is a common way to help smaller dogs weighing less than 50 pounds when they have knee problems. It works by placing a special stitch during surgery to stop the knee from moving the wrong way. This stitch keeps the knee steady by pulling it tight and preventing the shin bone from sliding back and forth.
This helps the knee heal properly, giving the muscles around the knee a chance to strengthen again. The surgery is pretty fast and not too complicated, and it often works well for smaller and medium-sized dogs.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO surgery helps dogs with a torn cruciate. It works by cutting the top of the tibia and then repositioning it. A metal plate is used to keep the bone stable as it heals. After TPLO surgery, your dog's leg will slowly get better and stronger over a few months."
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA surgery is like TPLO surgery. In TTA surgery, a surgeon separates the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone. Then, they put a spacer between the two sections to move the front part up and forward. This surgery stops a lot of the tibia thrust movement.
Just like in TPLO surgery, a bone plate will be attached to keep the front part of the tibia in the right place until the bone heals properly. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (the angle of the top part of the tibia) are usually good candidates for TTA surgery.
Choosing a Surgery
After thoroughly examining your dog's knee movement and geometry, your vet will consider your dog's age, weight, size, and lifestyle and then recommend the best treatment in your dog's case.
Dog Recovery Time From Knee Surgery
Healing fully from knee surgery takes time. Some dogs might start walking within 24 hours after the surgery, but it will be about 12-16 weeks or even longer before they can go back to their regular activities. It's important to follow your vet's instructions after the surgery to help your dog recover. If your dog starts running or jumping before the knee completely heals, it could get hurt again.
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.