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What You Should Know About Dog Knee Surgery

Knee injuries are a common problem for dogs and can cause them great pain. In this post, our veterinarians in Meadow Vista explain the different knee surgery procedures for dogs and what to expect during the recovery process.

The Most Common Dog Knee Injury

Dogs can experience a tear in their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), which is similar to the ACL in humans. These injuries are common among dogs, and surgery is the most common orthopedic procedure used to treat them.

CCL injuries can occur suddenly due to acute onset, caused by a sudden twisting or tearing of the ligament. Chronic onset can also be a cause and is linked to age, breed, obesity, or other factors.

Owners need to know that surgery for a CCL rupture does not fully repair a knee (stifle) joint, but only stabilizes it. The injured knee may function normally, but it is different from a healthy knee. The healthy knee may also take on an added burden, which can contribute to a CCL rupture in that knee. 

If your dog's CCL fails suddenly, it may yelp in pain and be unable to put weight on the injured leg. If left untreated, arthritis can develop as the bones rub together, and the knee joint may not function properly.

Dog Knee Surgeries and Procedures

There are several surgical treatments that your veterinarian may consider to repair your dog's torn CCL. The best procedure for your dog depends on their specific condition.

  • Size
  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Weight
  • Surgeon's preference
  • Financial implications/cost of procedure

The surgeries include:

Lateral Suture (Extracapsular)

The CCL prevents the tibia from sliding forward and out from underneath the femur. This procedure is performed to restore stability to the knee by placing sutures outside the joint to mimic the normal activity of the CCL.

For this surgery, a one-fiber (continuous monofilament) nylon suture is placed around the femur's fabellar bone and then looped through a hole drilled into the tibial tuberosity. A stainless steel clip holds both ends of the suture in place.

To choose the correct procedure, it's important to diagnose the injury correctly and identify the extent of it, as a CCL rupture leads to knee instability, which can cause damage to other structures throughout the joint. Appropriate diagnostics will also increase your dog's chances of recovering successfully.

Lateral suture is not your only option. Alternatives include:

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

This procedure changes the angle of the tibial plateau, rotating it so the femur no longer slides backward and the knee is stabilized. This eliminates the need for the CCL ligament entirely.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) Surgery

This procedure is aimed at altering the dynamics of the knee, eliminating the need for the CCL to stabilize the joint. To achieve this, a linear incision is made along the length of the tibial tuberosity, located at the tibia's front part.

The bone is then moved forward, creating a gap that is filled with a special bone spacer, positioned between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity. Finally, a stainless steel metal plate is used to secure the bone in place.

Potential complications and recovery

It's important to note that not all dogs are suitable for every medical procedure. Your veterinarian can provide you with information about the benefits and drawbacks of each surgery, as well as potential risks and side effects.

Additionally, you will receive instructions on how to facilitate recovery.

It's worth noting that complete recovery from many orthopedic injuries can take up to six months. Proper after-care, which may include physical therapy and regular exercise, is essential to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

Diagnostics are part of our services. If you think your dog may have torn his ligament, contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an appointment, so it can be correctly diagnosed.

New Patients Welcome

Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients including dogs, cats and large animals. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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