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What to Expect From Your Dog's Knee Surgery

What to Expect From Your Dog's Knee Surgery

Do you suspect your dog is experiencing knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (the equivalent of ACLs in humans), surgery may be the most suitable treatment option. In this post, our Parrish vets explore three surgical options for treating this extremely common knee injury in dogs. 

Knee Injuries in Dogs

The health of your dog's knees is a critical factor in determining whether they'll enjoy a long, happy life. It's important to help them keep their knees working pain-free and properly. 

Just like with human knees, your dog's knee health depends on good nutrition and an appropriate amount of physical activity. That said, while there are a number of high-quality dog foods and supplements on the market that can help keep your pup's joints in good condition, cruciate ligament injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) can still happen and cause your dog a great deal of knee pain. 

Knee pain due to a torn ligament can occur suddenly while your dog is running or playing, or gradually develop over a longer period of time. 

What is the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs?

The CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament, is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that connects their two large leg bones and allows the knee to move properly and without pain. 

What is tibial thrust?

When your dog has torn a cruciate ligament, pain arises due to instability within the knee, and a motion called 'tibial thrust'. 

Tibial thrust is an unhealthy sliding that's caused by weight being transmitted up your dog's shin and across the knee, causing their shin to 'thrust' forward. This movement occurs because the tip of the tibia is sloped and your dog's injured ligament won't be able to prevent the painful shift from occurring. 

What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?

If an injured cruciate ligament is causing your pup to suffer from knee pain, your dog will not be able to perform a number of movements normally, including walking or running. Other symptoms of knee injuries to look out for include:

  • Reluctance to climb stairs or exercise 
  • Limping on their hind legs 
  • Stiffness after exercise 
  • Difficulties rising up off of the floor 

Can veterinary surgery repair my dog's knee injury?

Ligament injuries are painful for dogs and tend not to heal themselves. If your pooch is showing signs of a torn ligament, it's important to see your vet so the condition can be diagnosed and treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. 

In many cases, a dog with a torn cruciate ligament in one leg will quickly go one to injure the ligament in the healthy leg. If your dog is suffering from a torn cruciate ligament, your vet will likely recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog regain normal mobility, and/or refer you to a veterinary surgeon for further diagnosis and treatment:

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

This knee surgery is often used to treat smaller dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds, and works by preventing the tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ligament has time to heal, and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength.

TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

TPLO reduces tibial thrust without having to rely on a dog's cruciate. TPLO surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of your dog's shin bone (called their tibial plateau) and then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. A metal plate will then be added to the area where the cut was made in order to stabilize the bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal to regain their 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?

Healing from knee surgery is always a long process that requires patience. While many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after their surgery, a complete recover and return to their normal activities will likely take 16 weeks or more.

Following your vet's post-operative instructions carefully will help your dog to return to normal activities as quickly as safely possible, while reducing the risk 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.

Are you interested in learning more about your dog's treatment options regarding knee surgery? Contact our Parrish vets today to get started.

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