If your dog has knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (similar to ACL injuries in humans), surgery might be the most effective treatment. Our veterinarians in Natick discuss three surgical options to treat this common knee injury in dogs.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
To ensure your dog has a healthy and happy life, supporting their knee health is important, keeping them pain-free and functioning properly.
Similar to humans, your dog's knee well-being relies on good nutrition and appropriate physical activity.
While there are excellent dog foods and supplements available to maintain your pup's joint health, it's still possible for them to experience cruciate ligament injuries (also known as ACL injuries), which can result in significant knee pain.
A torn ligament can cause sudden knee pain while your dog is running or playing, or it may develop gradually over time.
What is the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) in dogs?
The CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament, is a ligament in your dog's leg that connects their two large leg bones. It helps their knee move correctly and without causing any discomfort or pain.
What is tibial thrust?
In CCL, your dog experiences pain due to knee instability caused by a torn cruciate ligament. This instability leads to a motion known as "tibial thrust." Tibial thrust is an unhealthy sliding motion where weight is transferred up your dog's shin and across their knee, causing their shin to move forward forcefully. This occurs because the top part of their tibia is sloped, and the injured ligament cannot stop this painful movement.
What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?
If your dog has a knee injury and their cruciate ligament is hurt, they will struggle to do certain movements like walking or running. Keep an eye out for other signs of knee injuries, such as:
- 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 painful and usually don't heal on their own. If you notice any signs of a torn ligament in your dog, it's crucial to take them to the vet for a diagnosis. Early treatment is essential to prevent the condition from worsening.
Sometimes, when a dog tears the cruciate ligament in one leg, they may also end up injuring the ligament in the other healthy leg.
If your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, your vet will likely suggest one of three knee surgeries to restore their normal mobility.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
- This type of knee surgery is commonly performed on small dogs weighing less than 50 pounds. It aims to stop the tibial thrust by using a special suture placed through surgery. The suture helps stabilize your dog's knee by tightening the joint and stopping the tibia from sliding forward and backward. This allows the ligament to heal properly, while allowing the knee muscles to regain their strength.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
- TPLO surgery reduces tibial thrust by adjusting the angle of a dog's shin bone, without relying on its cruciate ligament. During the procedure, the top part of the shin bone (tibial plateau) is completely cut and rotated to change its angle. To support the healing process, a metal plate is placed in the cut area to stabilize the bone. Over a few months, the dog's leg gradually heals, allowing them to regain 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?
A vet will be able to do a thorough exam of your dog's knee in order to assess its movement and geometry. They will consider factors like your dog's weight, age, lifestyle and size before recommending a proper treatment.
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?
Recovering from knee surgery takes time and patience. Although some dogs can start walking within 24 hours after the surgery, it usually takes about 16 weeks or more for them to recover and resume their usual activities fully.
By closely following your vet's post-operative instructions, you can help your dog return to normal activities as soon as possible while minimizing the chances 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.