If your dog is suffering from a torn cranial cruciate ligament, knee surgery will likely be the most effective way to get your pooch up and running again. But which type of knee surgery is best for your dog? Our Brookhaven vets discuss the options.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Having healthy and pain-free knees is crucial for your dog to stay active. Although there are excellent dog foods and supplements recommended by veterinarians to maintain good joint health, there's a possibility of cruciate injuries, also known as ACL injuries, which can bring a lot of discomfort to your dog.
Your Dog's Cranial Cruciate Ligament
The dog's cranial cruciate ligament, also known as CCL, CrCL, ACL, or cruciate, is one of the leg ligaments that connect the shin bone to the thigh bone, enabling the knee to function properly without pain.
Knee pain resulting from a torn cruciate can occur suddenly during exercise or gradually develop over time. If your dog has injured their cruciate ligament and keeps engaging in activities like running, jumping, and playing, the injury may worsen rapidly.
Causes of Dog Knee Pain
If your dog has a torn cruciate, pain results from the knee's instability and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by the transmission of weight up the dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, causing 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 the dog's injured cruciate cannot prevent the unwanted movement from occurring.
Signs That Your Dog May Have an Injured Cruciate
If your dog is suffering from an injured cruciate and experiencing knee pain, they will not be able to run or walk normally and will likely display 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
Knee Surgery to Treat Cruciate Injuries in Dogs
Cruciate injuries usually don't heal on their own and require treatment. If you notice signs of a torn cruciate in your dog, it's crucial to schedule a vet appointment for a diagnosis. Early treatment can prevent the symptoms from getting worse. It's common for dogs with one torn cruciate to also injure the other knee soon after.
If your dog is diagnosed with a torn cruciate, your vet will probably suggest one of three knee surgeries to help your furry friend regain normal mobility.
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization (ELSS / ECLS)
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is often used to treat dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds and works by preventing tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes the dog's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia. This allows the cruciate time to heal, and 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.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
TPLO is a reliable treatment for a torn cruciate and aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate. This treatment involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. Finally, a metal plate is added 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.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)
TTA is a surgical procedure similar to TPLO. It involves separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone and inserting a spacer between them to reposition the front section forward and upward. This surgery effectively prevents excessive movement of the tibia.
Just like TPLO, a bone plate will be attached to keep the front section of the tibia in place until it heals properly. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau, which refers to the angle of the top section of the tibia, are usually well-suited for TTA surgery.
Choosing The Right Knee Surgery For Your Dog
After a thorough examination of your dog's knee movement and geometry, your vet will consider your dog's age, weight, size and lifestyle, then recommend the treatment that's best in your dog's case.
Dogs' Recovery from Knee Surgery
Healing completely from knee surgery is a long process regardless of which surgery your dog has. Although dogs are often able to walk 24 hours after surgery, do not expect your dog to recover fully and a return to normal activities for at least 12 - 16 weeks. To help get your dog back to their normal day to day lifestyle as quickly as possible, follow your vet's post-operative instructions carefully. Allowing your dog to begin running and jumping before the knee has completely healed could lead to a serious re-injury and bring your dog back to square one.
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.