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Dog Knee Surgery

If your dog tears a CCL ligament in their knee, knee surgery is typically necessary to repair the injury. In this article, our Los Angeles veterinarians discuss knee injuries in dogs and the role of surgery in treating them.

Knee Injuries in Dogs

Ensuring that your dog's knees are healthy and pain-free is crucial for maintaining an active lifestyle. While there are various high-quality dog foods and supplements that your veterinarian can suggest to help keep your dog's joints in good shape, it's still possible for cruciate injuries (also known as ACL injuries) to occur, which can cause your dog significant discomfort.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

The dog's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two leg ligaments connecting the shin bone to the thigh bone and allowing for proper (pain-free) knee function.

Knee pain stemming from a torn cruciate ligament can come on suddenly during exercise but is equally likely to develop gradually over time. If your dog has injured its cruciate ligament and continues to run, jump, and play, the injury may quickly become much more severe. 

Causes of Knee Injuries

If your pup has a torn cruciate, pain is caused by the knee's instability and a tibial thrust motion.

Tibial thrust is a type of movement that happens when weight is transferred upwards along the shin bone (tibia) of a dog and across the knee, causing the shinbone to slide forward about the thigh bone (femur). This forward sliding motion is possible because the top of the tibia is sloped, and if the dog's cruciate is injured, it cannot prevent unwanted movement from occurring.

Signs of a Dog Knee Injury

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 off of the floor (particularly after rest, following exercise)
  • Pronounced limping in their hind legs
  • Stiffness following exercise

Surgical Treatment for a Torn Ligament

Cruciate injuries in dogs hardly ever heal on their own without treatment. If you notice any symptoms of a torn cruciate in your dog, it is crucial to book an appointment with your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment, before the condition worsens. It is common for dogs with a torn cruciate to injure their other knee as well.

If your dog is diagnosed with a torn cruciate, your vet will likely recommend one of three knee surgeries to restore normal mobility. However, not all vets are qualified to perform these surgeries, and your pup may need to be referred to a veterinary surgeon for treatment.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

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 to heal and the muscles surrounding the knee 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 surgery is a reliable treatment for a torn cruciate ligament in dogs. It aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate ligament. The procedure involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia, also known as the tibial plateau. After that, the tibial plateau is rotated to change its angle, and a metal plate is added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Following TPLO surgery, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen over several months.

TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

TTA is similar to TPLO and involves surgically 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 up and forward. This surgery prevents much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring.

As with TPLO surgery, a bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has had sufficient time to heal. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) tend to be excellent candidates for TTA surgery.

Choosing a Surgery

After evaluating your dog's knee movement, geometry, age, weight, size, and lifestyle, the vet will suggest the best treatment.

Dog Recovery Time From Knee Surgery

The truth is that healing completely from knee surgery is a long process. At the same time, many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery. A full recovery and a return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or more. Carefully follow your vet's post-operative instructions to restore your dog to normal activity levels. Allowing your dog to run and jump before the knee completely recovers could lead to re-injury.

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.

Is your dog showing signs of a knee injury? Contact our Los Angeles vets to have your pup examined and treated.

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