Canine Cruciate Ligament Injury
The most common injury in medium to large size dogs is the same injury many athletes suffer from: the tearing of the ligament in the knee. This tear can be caused by an activity (e.g. running, jumping or even falling) or inherited defect in the knee itself.
This ligament, called the cruciate, is what keeps the knee from sliding around when the dog moves. Located between the femur and tibia, the cruciate ligament can tear partially or completely. In either instance, the knee will become painful and swollen, causing your dog to limp. Left untreated, your dog could develop arthritis and it could cause even more damage to the already injured knee.
Treatment for Cruciate Ligament Injury in Dogs
For treatment, your veterinarian may initially recommend letting your dog’s knee rest, meaning no running or jumping. She’ll probably also recommend your dog be confined to a small area, such as a bathroom. Resting the leg allows scar tissue to develop, which could help the injured knee by keeping it from sliding back and forth.
In addition, an anti-inflammatory drug could help with the pain and reduce inflammation. This works pretty well for dogs who are less than 30 pounds. However, for the larger breeds, a surgical approach will more than likely be recommended.
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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Repair Surgery
One of the surgeries your veterinarian may recommend is one where a heavy suture material is placed along the joint. This suture acts like a fake ligament that will eventually scar over and help keep the knee stable. This technique is known as a cranial cruciate ligament repair, or CCLR.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy Surgery
Another option is a technique called tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO. Osteo means “bone” and tomy means “to make an incision.” The word “plateau” refers to having the tibia cut then turned just a little to remove the angle in the bone where it’s then leveled out. Then, the tibia is held in place using a special shaped plate and stainless-steel screws. Once the tibia is leveled, the knee will no longer slide out of place.
Most general practitioners don’t have the equipment or knowledge to perform this surgical procedure so you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
Let Your Dog Rest
Whether your dog is undergoing a CCLR or TPLO, the injured limb will need to be bandaged to help keep the repaired ligament stable. This bandage may have to be changed over the course of several weeks and X-rays will need to be taken to check the surgical repair. During this time, it’s very important your dog is not allowed to run or jump as it could injure the repaired ligament or bone plate, depending on the surgery performed.
The healing period is usually eight to 12 weeks. You’ll be able to slowly increase your dog’s activity after that, which will help rebuild muscle tissue and assist with healing the bone.