Dogs are typically active by nature, however, their playing may occasionally result in an injury. At one point or another, you may encounter a knee injury in your dog. Our Fairhaven vets discuss knee injuries and what to expect if they recommend knee surgery for your dog.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Dogs are active animals and therefore having healthy and pain-free knees are incredibly important for their well-being. Your vet is able to make recommendations on different specialty foods and supplements to help keep your dog's joints in good condition. Even with all the preventive measures, cruciate injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) still have the possibility of occurring and can cause your dog a great deal of discomfort.
What is the CCL or ACL in dogs?
Your dog's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in the leg that connect the shin bone to the thigh bone and is important for proper knee function that should be pain-free.
If your dog experiences such an injury the pain could develop suddenly while exercising, but could also gradually develop over time. If your dog has injured their cruciate ligament and does not receive proper care while continuing to utilize the limb it could cause further pain and damage.
What causes your dog's knee pain?
When your dog is experiencing a torn cruciate, the knee is unstable and the pain is caused by a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is an unwanted sliding motion that is caused by your dog's weight being transmitted up the shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, this movement causes the shinbone to “thrust” forward in relation to the dog's thigh bone (femur). The forward thrust movement occurs because the top of the tibia is sloped, and because of the cruciate injury, your dog is unable to prevent this movement from happening.
Signs and Symptoms if your dog is experiencing a knee injury
When experiencing a knee injury your dog will be in pain and unable to move as usual. Your dog will not be able to run or walk normally and will typically have other symptoms such as:
- Difficulties rising up off of the floor (particularly after rest, following exercise)
- Pronounced limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
What treatment is available for dogs with a torn cruciate?
Cruciate injuries more often than not require medical attention in order to heal properly. If your dog is experiencing signs of a knee injury you should ensure that you book an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible to have the condition diagnosed, so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. If your dog is experiencing a torn cruciate and does not receive care quickly it is common for them to injure another knee in the process.
If your dog is experiencing a knee injury and has been diagnosed with a torn cruciate, your vet will typically recommend knee surgery to help your dog with repairing the injury. There are three common surgeries for knee injuries, these are:
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is typically used when a dog weighs under 50 pounds and is used in order to prevent tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. This suture stabilizes the dog's knee and pulls the joint tight in order to prevent the front-to-back sliding of the tibia. This surgery allows the cruciate to have time to heal and gives the muscles surrounding the knee an opportunity to regain their strength. ELSS surgery is a relatively quick and uncomplicated procedure with a good success rate in small to medium-sized dogs.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO is the most common treatment for a torn cruciate and is used to help reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate. This treatment is performed by making a complete cut along the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. Finally, the addition of a metal plate is used to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen over the course of several months following TPLO surgery.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA is a surgery similar to TPLO. During TTA surgery your veterinarian will surgically separate the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone, the next step will be to add a spacer between the two sections which will then move the front section up and forward. This surgery prevents a large amount of the tibia thrust movement from occurring. As with TPLO surgery, during the process, a bone plate will be attached in order to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has healed properly. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) tend to be excellent candidates for TTA surgery.
Which knee surgery is best for my dog?
Once your vet has decided that knee surgery is the best option for your dog, they will conduct a thorough examination and take your dog's lifestyle as well as age weight and size into account before recommending the treatment that they feel would most benefit your dog.
What is the recovery time after surgery?
The healing process and recovery after knee surgery can be lengthy. While it may be possible for your dog to begin to move around as soon as 24 hours after surgery, it is possible for the full recovery to take 12 - 16 weeks or more. In order to get your dog back to normal activity levels, it is very important to carefully follow your vet's post-operative instructions. Allowing your dog to begin running and jumping before the knee has completely healed could lead to re-injury and further complications.