If your dog is suffering from a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL/ACL), your Seattle vet may recommend surgery to repair the damage and get your dog up and running again. Here are three surgery options for treating this common knee injury in dogs.
Knee injuries in dogs
Keeping your dog's knees healthy and pain-free is essential to providing your dog with an active lifestyle.
While your vet can recommend a number of high-quality dog foods and supplements to help keep your dog's joints in good condition, cruciate injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) do happen and can cause your dog a great deal of discomfort.
The cranial cruciate ligament in dogs
Your dog's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that connect the shin bone to the thigh bone and allows for proper movement of the knee.
Exercise is a culprit for knee pain and injury stemming from a torn cruciate, but this condition is equally likely to gradually develop over time. If your dog has an injured cruciate and continues to run, jump and play, then the injury is likely to become much more severe.
Signs and symptoms of knee injuries in dogs
If your dog is suffering from knee pain due to an injured cruciate, they will not be able to run or walk normally and will likely display other symptoms such as:
- Limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
- Difficulties rising up off of the floor
Surgery options for treating knee injuries in dogs
Knee injuries typically do not heal themselves. If your dog is showing signs of a torn cruciate, it's a good idea to get a vet's diagnosis so you can begin treatment before symptoms worsen.
If your dog has a torn cruciate, your vet is likely to recommend one of three different knee surgeries to help your dog regain normal mobility.
1. Extracapsular lateral suture stabilization (ELSS / ECLS)
This surgical treatment is often used to treat dog's that weigh less than 50 pounds. It works with a surgically placed suture to prevent the 'tibial thrust' — a sliding motion caused by weight shifted up the shinbone and across the knee, causing the shinbone to 'thrust' forward in relation to the thigh bone.
The suture stabilizes the dog's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the tibia from sliding front to back so the cruciate has time to heal and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength. ELSS surgery is fairly quick and uncomplicated with a good success rate in small to medium-sized dogs.
2. Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO)
TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery and aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate.
This surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. Then a metal plate is added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals.
Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen.
3. Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA)
TTA is similar to TPLO but can be a slightly less invasive treatment.
This knee surgery 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 in order to prevent the movement from a tibia thrust.
A bone plate is 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) are excellent candidates for TTA surgery.
Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?
Following a thorough examination of your dog's knee movement and geometry, your vet will consider your dog's age, weight, size and lifestyle before recommending the treatment that's best for your dog.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from knee surgery?
Healing from a knee surgery is a long process. While many dogs are able to walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery, a full recovery and a return to normal activities will take 12 weeks to 16 weeks or longerr. Following your vet's post-operative instructions will help your dog return to normal activities as soon as safely possible while reducing the risk of 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.