Dogs commonly experience knee injuries, which can inflict severe pain on furry companions. In this post, our veterinarians in Clearlake discuss dog knee surgery procedures and outline the expected recovery process.
The Most Common Dog Knee Injury
Dogs can tear the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in their knees, similar to how people can tear the ACL. CCL injuries commonly occur in dogs, making surgery on this joint the most prevalent orthopedic procedure.
These injuries can result from acute onset, caused by sudden twisting or tearing of the ligament, or chronic onset due to age, breed type, obesity, and more.
Owners should understand that surgery for a CCL rupture doesn't repair the knee (stifle) joint; it merely stabilizes it. While the injured knee may regain normal function, it won't be as good as new, and the healthy knee may bear an additional burden, potentially contributing to a CCL rupture in the healthy knee.
If your dog's CCL suddenly fails, you may hear them yelp in pain, and they may be unable to bear any weight on the injured leg. As the bones begin to rub together, arthritis can develop, leading to impaired knee joint 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. Surgeons perform this procedure to restore stability to the knee by placing sutures outside the joint to mimic the normal activity of the CCL.
For this surgery, surgeons use a one-fiber (continuous monofilament) nylon suture to encircle the femur's fabellar bone, then pass it through a hole drilled into the tibial tuberosity. They secure both ends of the suture using a stainless steel clip.
To select the appropriate procedure, it's crucial to accurately diagnose the injury and determine its severity because a CCL rupture results in knee instability, potentially causing damage to other structures within the joint. Proper diagnostics will also enhance your dog's chances of a successful recovery.
Remember, Lateral Suture is not the sole option; there are alternatives, such as:
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 alters the knee dynamics, eliminating the need for the CCL to stabilize the joint. It involves making a linear cut along the length of the tibial tuberosity (the front part of the tibia), advancing the bone forward, and filling the open space with a specialized bone spacer positioned between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity. A stainless steel metal plate is then applied to secure the bone.
Potential complications and recovery
Not every dog qualifies for every procedure. Your vet can provide you with information regarding the benefits and drawbacks of each surgery, along with potential complications and side effects. You will also receive recovery instructions. Many orthopedic injuries may require up to 6 months for full recovery.
After-care, including physical therapy and exercise, plays a crucial role in ensuring a safe and successful recovery.