If your dog tears a CCL ligament, knee surgery will likely be required to repair it. In this post, our Union City vets discuss how surgery is used to repair knee injuries in dogs.

Dogs & Knee Injuries

Healthy, pain-free knees are essential for your dog's active lifestyle. While your veterinarian can recommend a variety of high-quality dog foods and supplements to help keep your dog's joints in good condition, cruciate injuries (also known as ACL injuries) can occur and cause significant discomfort for your dog.

The Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in the dog's leg that connects the shin bone to the thigh bone and allows for proper (painless) knee function.

Knee pain caused by a torn cruciate ligament can occur suddenly during exercise, but it is also likely to develop gradually over time. If your dog's cruciate ligament is injured and they continue to run, jump, and play, the injury will likely worsen quickly.

Causes of Knee Injuries

If your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, the pain is caused by knee instability and a motion known as 'tibial thrust'.

Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by weight transmission up the dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, causing the shinbone to "thrust" forward relative 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 can't stop it.

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:

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

Treating a Torn Ligament With Surgery

Cruciate injuries rarely heal without treatment. If your dog is showing signs of a torn cruciate it's important to make an appointment to see your vet and have the condition diagnosed, so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. Often dogs with a single torn cruciate will quickly go on to injure the second knee.

If your dog is diagnosed with a torn cruciate your vet is likely to recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your canine companion regain normal mobility. It's important to note that not all vets perform these surgeries, and in some cases, your pup may be referred to a veterinary surgeon for treatment

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is commonly used to treat dogs weighing less than 50 pounds. It works by preventing tibial thrust using a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes the dog's knee by tightening the joint and preventing the tibia from sliding forward and backward.

This allows the cruciate ligament to heal and the muscles around the knee to regain strength. ELSS surgery is a quick and simple procedure that has a high success rate in small to medium-sized dogs.

TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

TPLO surgery 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 (the tibial plateau), and then rotating the tibial plateau 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 several months following TPLO surgery.

TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

TTA, like TPLO, involves surgically separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone and adding a spacer between the two sections to move it up and forward. This surgery prevents most of the tibia thrust movement from occurring.

As with TPLO surgery, a bone plate will be attached to keep the front section of the tibia in the proper position until the bone heals. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (the angle of the top section of the tibia) are ideal candidates for TTA surgery.

Choosing the Right 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, and then recommend the treatment that's best in your dog's case.

Your Dog's Recovery Process After Knee Surgery

The truth is that healing completely from knee surgery is a long process. While 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. To get your dog back to normal activity levels, carefully follow your vet's post-operative instructions. Allowing your dog to begin running and jumping before the knee has completely healed 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 Union City vets to have your pup cared for.