Knee injuries are common in dogs - and can cause serious pain for our furry friends. In this post, our vets explain dog knee surgery procedures and what to expect in recovery.
The Most Common Dog Knee Injury
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs’ knees can tear, similar to the ACL in people. CCL injuries are common in dogs, so it is one of the most common orthopedic surgeries performed.
These injuries can be caused by acute onset (sudden injury) triggered by a sudden twisting or tearing of the ligament, or chronic onset caused by age, type of breed, obesity, or other factors.
It's important for owners to understand that stabilizing a knee joint due to a CCL rupture is all that surgery can do for a damaged knee. Even though it may continue to function normally, the injured knee is not as good as new, and this adds stress to the other, healthy knee. This may have played a role in the healthy knee's CCL rupture.
If your dog’s CCL fails suddenly, you may hear them yelp in pain, and they may not be able to put any weight on the leg that’s been injured. As the bones begin to rub together, arthritis can set in and the knee joint will not be able to function.
Dog Knee Surgeries and Procedures
There are a few surgical procedures your veterinarian will consider to repair your dog’s torn CCL. Which CCL surgery is right for your dog will depend on his:
- 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 with the goal of restoring stability to the knee by placing sutures outside the joint to mimic normal activity of the CCL.
For this surgery, a one-fiber (continuous monofilament) nylon suture is placed around the femur’s fabellar bone, then looped through a hole drilled into the tibial tuberosity. A stainless steel clip is used to hold both ends of the suture in place.
Proper diagnosis and measurement of the injury are crucial in order to determine the best course of action; for example, a ruptured CCL can result in instability in the knee, which can in turn harm other structures in the joint. The likelihood of your dog making a full recovery will also be increased by appropriate diagnostics.
Lateral Suture is not your only option. Alternatives include:
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
Through rotation, the tibial plateau is angled differently after this procedure, preventing the femur from sliding backward and stabilizing the knee. This completely removes the need for the CCL ligament.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) Surgery
By altering the dynamics of the knee, this procedure eliminates the need for the CCL to stabilize the joint. One makes a straight cut the entire length of the tibial tuberosity, or the front portion of the tibia. A unique bone spacer is then inserted between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity to fill the empty space left by the advancement of the bone forward.
A stainless steel metal plate is applied to secure the bone in place.
Potential complications and recovery
Not every procedure is appropriate for every dog. Your veterinarian can advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of each procedure, as well as any possible risks and adverse effects. Additionally, you'll get instructions on how to recover. Many orthopedic injuries may require up to six months to fully heal.
After-care, including physical therapy and exercise, are key to a safe and successful recovery.