Does your dog seem to be experiencing pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (ACL) in their knee? Surgery might be the best treatment option. Here, our vets in Everett review three surgery options for treating this common knee injury in dogs.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Having knees that function properly and work pain-free is essential to your dog enjoying an active, happy lifestyle.
Similar to people, the health of your dog's knees depends on a solid foundation of a suitable level of physical activity and good nutrition.
Still, while there are numerous high-quality dog foods and supplements we can give our four-legged friends to help keep their joints in good condition, cruciate ligament injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes referred to) can still occur and cause your pup a great deal of knee pain.
Knee pain due to a torn ligament can happen suddenly while your dog is playing or running, or develop gradually over an extended period.
What is the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) in dogs?
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg. It connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and allows for the correct movement of your pet's knee.
What is tibial thrust?
A torn cruciate ligament in a dog will cause pain to arise from instability within the knee, and a motion we refer to as 'tibial thrust'.
The transmission of weight up a dog's shinbone and across the knee causes the shin bone to 'thrust' forward (hence the name 'tibial thrust'). The forward movement occurs because the top of the tibia (shinbone) is sloped, and the dog's injured ligament is unable to prevent unwanted movement from happening.
What are signs of a ligament injury in dogs?
When a dog suffers from knee pain due to an injured cruciate ligament, they will be unable to perform numerous movements normally, such as running or even walking. Other symptoms of knee injuries to watch for include:
- Limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness after exercise
- Reluctance to climb stairs or exercise
- Difficulties standing when rising from floor
Can surgery repair my dog's knee?
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.
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 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 heal, 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.
Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?
Your vet will do a thorough examination of your dog's knee to assess its movement and geometry, then consider other factors such as 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.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from knee surgery?
Healing from a knee surgery is always a long process and will require patience. While many dogs are able to walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery, a full recovery and a return to normal activities can 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.