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Knee Surgery for Dogs

Knee injuries can happen when it's least expected, caused by either repeated use or sudden injury. Here, our vets in Snellville talk about what happens when a dog sustains a knee injury and how surgery may be able to help repair it.

What are the common causes of a knee injury in dogs?

Your dog's CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament, behaves much like a human's ACL. Because these types of injuries happen so often, orthopedic surgery is one of the types most commonly performed on dogs.

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.

Owners should also know that surgery for a CCL rupture does not repair a knee (stifle) joint, but simply stabilizes it. While this helps to stabilize the injured knee, the healthy knee may become more load-bearing. This can result in a CCL rupture on the healthy knee down the road.

If your dog suddenly experiences a torn ligament, 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 Surgery: Factors & Types

When considering surgery for a dog with a torn CCL, the vet will look at a variety of factors. These can include:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Weight
  • Surgeon’s preference
  • Financial implications/cost of procedure

The knee surgeries most commonly performed on dogs are:

Lateral Suture (Extracapsular)

The CCL prevents the tibia from sliding forward and out from underneath the femur. This procedure is performed to restore 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. Your vet will use a steel clip to hold each end of the sutures in place during healing.

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.

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 length of the tibial tuberosity (the front part of the tibia). The bone is then advanced, and the open space is filled with a special bone spacer, placed between the tibia and the tibial tuberosity.

A stainless steel metal plate is applied to secure the bone 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.

Helping Your Dog Through Recovery From Knee Surgery

In some cases, orthopedic surgery may not be suitable. 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. You will need to ensure that you follow all aftercare instructions carefully and attend all follow-up exams and physical therapy sessions.

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.

If your dog is limping or showing signs of a knee injury, please contact our Snellville veterinary team as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

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Snellville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Snellville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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