Dogs that have experienced an injury to their ACL or CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) then they may require surgery as part of their treatment. Today our Egg Harbor Township vets discuss some of the different types of surgery for dog knee injuries and what you can expect during recovery.
Dog Knee Injuries and How They Happen
For your pooch to enjoy a happy and active lifestyle it is essential to keep your dog's knees working properly and pain-free.
As with people, the health of your dog's knees is built upon a solid foundation of good nutrition and a suitable level 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.
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 Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL or ACL)?
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that connect the shin bone (tibia) to the thigh bone (femur) and allows your pet's knee to move properly.
What is Tibial Thrust and How Does it Happen?
When your dog has a torn cruciate ligament pain arises from instability within the knee, and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by the transmission of weight up the dog's shin bone and across the knee, which causes the shinbone to “thrust” forward. This forward movement happens because the top of the tibia (shin bone) is sloped, and the dog's injured ligament is unable to prevent unwanted movement from occurring.
Identifying CCL Injuries in Dogs
When it comes to CCL tears in dogs, 80% of cases are chronic onset ruptures which are caused by degeneration and usually occur due to aging. This is most commonly seen in dogs ages five to seven.
Acute onset ruptures are most commonly seen in pups four years or younger. These tears are caused by injuries a dog will sustain just running around living their daily lives.
Symptoms of a CCL rupture may include:
- Decreased Motion
- Lack of Motivation
- Restricted Mobility
- Swelling / Inflammation
- Weight Shifting
- Hind Leg Extension
- Joint Pain
- Stiffness After Exercise
- Thick / Firm Feeling Joints
- Audible Popping Sound
If you notice any of the listed symptoms above, contact your vet and schedule an examination for your pup.
Is Surgery a Good Option For My Dog's Knee Injury?
Ligament injuries in dogs are painful and tend not to heal themselves. If your pup is showing signs of a torn ligament it's important to see your vet to have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe.
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.
Your vet will do a thorough examination of your dog's knee to assess its movement and geometry, then consider other factors such as the dog's age, weight, size and lifestyle. 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.
- Arthroscopy is the least invasive means of visualizing the structures of the stifle, the cranial, and caudal cruciate ligaments. The technique offers enhanced visualization and magnification of the joint structures. The technology developed for this procedure allows for minimal surgical incisions for partial CCL and meniscus tears. This method may not be an option for completely torn ligaments.
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 relying on the dog's cruciate. TPLO surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of the shin bone (tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. A metal plate is then added to the area where the cut was made, in order to help stabilize the bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your pup's leg will gradually recover, regaining its 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.
How Long is Recovery After Orthopedic Surgery?
No matter which operation is performed to repair the ligament, it is the care your dog receives after surgery that will determine how successful the operation is. The first 12 weeks following surgery are a crucial time for recovery and rehabilitation. Limited exercise and encouraging your pup to begin using their leg are keys to a successful recovery.
At 2 weeks postoperatively, you can gradually increase the length of your dog’s leashed walks. By the 8th week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform some of their basic daily living activities.
After 8-10 weeks post-operatively, your vet will take x-rays to assess how the bone is healing. Your dog will be able to gradually be able to resume normal activities. We at Egg Harbor Township recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog’s recovery. Whatever rehabilitation facility you attend should have experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries such as the TPLO.
Ways That You Can Help Your Dog Recover From Surgery
There are many ways that you can help make recovery for your dog after surgery as quick and comfortable as possible such as:
- Managing the effects of anesthesia
- Keeping your dog comfortable
- Restricting their movement
- Continuing with pain management
- Caring for the incision site
- Keeping your dog company and entertaining them
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.