Many dogs suffer from knee injuries, which can be very painful for them. In this article, our veterinarians will break down dog knee surgery and what you can anticipate during the recovery process.
The Most Common Dog Knee Injury
Dogs can hurt their knee ligament called the (CCL), which is like the ACL in people. CCL injuries are common in dogs, so surgery on this joint is the most common orthopedic surgery performed.
These injuries can happen suddenly, like when a dog suddenly twists or tearing of the ligament, or chronic onset caused by age, type of breed, obesity, or other factors.
Owners should also know that surgery for a CCL rupture does not repair a knee (stifle) joint but simply stabilizes it. The injured knee is not as good as new, and although it may function normally, the other healthy knee takes on an added burden. This can be a contributing factor to having the CCL rupture in the healthy knee.
If your dog's CCL gets injured suddenly, they might yelp in pain and not be able to use their leg. This can cause arthritis, and the knee may stop working properly.
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 (Cranial Cruciate Ligament) surgery helps prevent the tibia (shin bone) from moving too much forward and out from under the femur (thigh bone). This procedure is performed with the goal of restoring 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 is used to hold 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.
Remember, the Lateral Suture surgery isn't the only choice. There are other options to consider, 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 how the knee works, removing the need for the CCL to support the joint. It involves making a straight cut on the front part of the tibia, known as the tibial tuberosity.
The cut bone is moved forward, and a unique bone spacer is inserted in the gap between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity. Finally, a stainless steel plate is used to hold the bone in position firmly.
Potential complications and recovery
Not every dog is a candidate for every procedure. Your vet can inform you about the advantages and disadvantages of each surgery, as well as potential complications and side effects. You'll also receive instructions about recovery. Full recovery from many orthopedic injuries may take up to 6 months.
After-care, including physical therapy and exercise, are key to a safe and successful recovery.