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Dog Knee Surgery: What To Expect & How To Prepare

Dog Knee Surgery: What To Expect & How To Prepare

If your dog has a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL/ACL), your Somerset vet may suggest surgery to fix it and help your dog move freely again. Three surgical options are available to treat this common knee injury in dogs.

Knee Injuries in Dogs

Maintaining your dog's knee health is important to ensure their active lifestyle. While your vet can suggest high-quality dog food and supplements to support joint health, there's a risk of cruciate or ACL injuries that can cause your dog significant pain.

The Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

Your dog's cranial 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 equally likely to gradually develop over a period of time. If your dog has an injured cruciate and continues to run, jump and play then the injury is likely to become much more severe. 

Tibial Thrust

When your dog has a torn cruciate pain arises from 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 shin bone 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 unwanted movement from occurring.

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 to diagnose the condition so that treatment can begin before symptoms worsen.

If your dog has a torn cruciate, your vet will likely recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog regain normal mobility.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

This surgery is commonly performed on dogs weighing less than 50 pounds to treat cruciate injuries. It involves placing a surgical suture to stop the tibial thrust, stabilizing the knee joint and preventing the tibia from sliding front-to-back. This allows the cruciate to heal and the surrounding muscles to regain strength. ELSS surgery is simple and quick, with a high success rate in small to medium-sized dogs.

TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery and aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate. This surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (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 slightly less invasive treatment. This knee surgery involves surgically 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 up and forward. This helps the knee 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.

Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?

Following a thorough examination of your dog's knee movement and geometry, your vet will consider your dog's age, weight, size and lifestyle, then recommend the treatment that's best for your dog.

How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?

Recovering from knee surgery can take a while. Although some dogs can walk within 24 hours, complete recovery and resuming normal activities usually take 12-16 weeks or longer. Following your vet's post-operative instructions is crucial for your dog's safe return to normal activities and for minimizing re-injury risk.

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.

To find out more about knee surgery options to treat your dog's cruciate injury, contact Somerset Veterinary Specialists today to book a consultation with one of our Huntersville specialist vets.

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