Surgery may be your best bet for treatment if your dog has knee pain due to a torn ligament (the equivalent of ACLs in humans). In this article, our Madison vets look at 3 surgery options for treating this very common knee injury in dogs.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
To ensure your dog stays healthy and happy, it's crucial to care for the health of their knees. Just like humans, your dog's knees depend on good nutrition and the right amount of physical activity.
That said, while there are a number 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 happen and cause your dog a great deal of knee pain.
These injuries can occur suddenly during play or gradually develop over time. So, keeping an eye on your dog's knees is essential for their overall well-being.
What is the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) in dogs?
The CCL, which stands for cranial cruciate ligament, is like a strong band inside your dog's leg. It connects their big leg bones and helps their knees work smoothly and without hurting.
What is tibial thrust?
When your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, pain arises from instability within the knee and a tibial thrust motion.
Tibial thrust is an unhealthy sliding caused by the transmission of weight up your dog's shin and across their knee, causing 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 has a hurt knee ligament, they might have trouble with everyday movement like walking or running. Other symptoms of knee injuries that you should watch for are:
- 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 can be very painful and usually won't heat on their own. If your dog is showing signs of a torn ligament, it's important to see your vet diagnose the condition so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe.
In some cases, a dog with a torn cruciate ligament in one leg might also injure the ligament in the other leg.
If your dog suffers from a torn cruciate ligament, your vet will likely 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 and 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?
When you take your dog to the vet for a knee issue, the vet will carefully examine it to understand how it moves and its shape. They will consider factors like your dog's weight, age, lifestyle, and size before recommending a proper treatment.
Once your vet has fully evaluated your pet's condition, they can recommend the best surgery to treat your dog's knee injury.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from knee surgery?
Recovering from knee surgery for dogs takes time and patience. While many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after their surgery, a complete recovery and return to their normal activities will likely take 16 weeks or more.
To speed up your dog's recovery and prevent any knee injuries from happening again, make sure to follow your vet's post-surgery instructions closely.
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.