Dogs often experience knee injuries that can lead to significant discomfort. In this blog, our vets in Zeeland will explain dog knee surgery and the recovery process.
The Most Common Dog Knee Injury
Similar to the ACL in humans, dogs have a ligament in their knee called cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs' knees that can tear, similar to 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 be caused by acute onset (sudden injury) triggered by a sudden twisting or tearing of the ligament or chronic onset caused by age, breed type, obesity, or other factors.
It's important to note that CCL surgery doesn't fully restore the knee joint but 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 tears suddenly, they might yelp in pain and avoid putting weight on the injured leg. 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
Veterinarians have several surgical options to repair a torn CCL in dogs. The suitable surgery depends on your dog's
- Surgeon's preference
- Financial implications/cost of procedure
The surgeries include:
Lateral Suture (Extracapsular)
Lateral suture surgery (extracapsular) is performed to restore stability to the knee. It involves placing sutures outside the joint to mimic the function of the CCL(cranial cruciate ligament), which prevents the tibia from sliding forward and causing instability.
For this surgery, a one-fiber (continuous monofilament) nylon suture is placed around the femur's fabellar bone and threaded through a hole drilled into the tibial tuberosity. A stainless steel clip secures the suture ends.
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)
Adjusts the tibial plateau's angle to prevent backward sliding of the femur, eliminating the need for the CCL ligament
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) Surgery
This procedure changes the dynamics of the knee, so the CCL is no longer needed to stabilize the joint. A linear cut is made along the tibial tuberosity's length (the tibia's front part). The bone is then advanced forward, and the open space is filled with a special bone spacer placed between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity.
A metal plate secures the bone.
Potential complications and recovery
Not all procedures are suitable for every dog. Your vet will explain the pros and cons of each surgery and 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, is crucial for a successful outcome.