If your dog is suffering from a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL/ACL), surgery could help get your dog up and running again. Learn more from our Fort Collins team about knee surgery options for your dog's torn CCL.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Keeping your dog's knees healthy and pain-free is essential to providing your dog with an active lifestyle.
While there are a number of high-quality dog foods and supplements that your vet can recommend 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 or anterior 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.
Knee pain and injury stemming from a torn cruciate can come on suddenly during exercise but is just as likely to gradually develop over a period of time. If your dog has an injured cruciate and continues to run, jump and play, the injury is likely to become much more severe.
When your dog has a torn cruciate, they experience pain due to 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 shinbone and across the knee, causing the shinbone to “thrust” forward in relation to the dog's thigh bone. This forward thrust movement occurs because the top of the tibia is sloped, and the dog's injured cruciate is unable to prevent the undesirable movement.
Signs & 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:
- Difficulties rising up off of the floor
- Limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
Surgery Options for Treating Knee Injuries in Dogs
These knee injuries typically do not heal themselves. If your dog is showing signs of a torn cruciate, it's important to see a vet in order to have the condition diagnosed. This will enable treatment to begin before symptoms worsen for your canine companion.
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.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
This surgical treatment is often used to treat dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds. The procedure consists of preventing the tibial thrust with 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 so that 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.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery, with the aim to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate. This surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (the 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. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA is similar to TPLO but can be a less invasive treatment. This knee surgery involves surgically separating the front of the tibia from the rest of the bone, after which a spacer is added between the two sections to move the front section up and forward. This helps 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 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.
What type of knee surgery is right for my 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, before recommending the treatment that's best for your dog.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?
Healing from knee surgery is a long process for humans and dogs alike. While many dogs are able to walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery, a full recovery and safe return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or more. Following your vet's post-operative instructions will help your dog to return to normal activities as soon as 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.