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 Beacon 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.
Having said that, while there are a variety of high quality dog foods and supplements that you can give your pup to help keep their joints in good condition, cruciate ligament injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) can still occur and cause severe knee pain in your dog.
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 that occurs when your dog's weight is transmitted up their shin and across their knee, causing their shin to "thrust" forward. This movement occurs because the top of their tibia is sloped, and your dog's injured ligament will be unable to prevent this painful movement.
What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?
If your dog is experiencing knee pain as a result of an injured cruciate ligament, they will be unable to perform a variety of normal movements, such as walking or running. Other knee injury symptoms to be aware of 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 painful and rarely heal on their own. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of a torn ligament, you should take him or her to the vet to have the condition diagnosed 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 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 veterinarian can perform a thorough examination of your dog's knee to determine its movement and geometry. Before recommending a treatment, they will consider your dog's weight, age, lifestyle, and size.
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 necessitates patience. While many dogs can walk within 24 hours of surgery, a full recovery and return to normal activities is likely to 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.