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Dog Knee Surgery

If your dog suffers from knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (similar to ACL injuries in humans), surgery might offer the most effective treatment. In this article, our veterinarians in Chino Hills examine three surgical options for addressing this prevalent canine knee injury.

Knee Injuries in Dogs

You must actively maintain their knee health to ensure your dog enjoys a healthy and happy life. Good nutrition and adequate physical activity form the foundation of your dog's knee well-being, just as they do for humans.

Although you can provide your pup with high-quality dog food and supplements to support joint health, cruciate ligament injuries, also known as ACL injuries, can still occur and inflict significant knee pain upon your dog.

A torn ligament can cause sudden knee pain during activities such as running or playing, or it may develop gradually over time.

What is the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) in dogs?

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) connects your dog's two large leg bones, enabling their knee to move smoothly and painlessly.

What is tibial thrust?

When your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, pain arises from instability within the knee and a tibial thrust motion.

Tibial thrust is an unhealthy sliding caused by the transmission of weight up your dog's shin and across their knee, causing their shin to "thrust" forward. This movement happens because the top of their tibia is sloped, and your dog's injured ligament won't be able to prevent this painful movement from occurring.

What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?

If your dog is experiencing knee pain caused by an injured cruciate ligament, they won't be able to perform several normal movements like walking or running. Be vigilant for other symptoms of knee injuries, such as:

  • Reluctance to exercise or climb stairs
  • Difficulties rising up off of the floor
  • Limping in their hind legs
  • Stiffness following exercise

Can surgery repair my dog's knee injury?

Ligament injuries in dogs cause pain and do not typically heal on their own. If your pup displays signs of a torn ligament, it's crucial to promptly consult your vet for a diagnosis and immediate treatment to prevent worsening symptoms.

In numerous instances, a dog with a torn cruciate ligament in one leg will swiftly damage the ligament in the unaffected leg.

If your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, your vet will likely advise one of three knee surgeries to restore your dog's mobility to normal.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
  • This knee surgery is often used to treat smaller dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds and works by preventing the tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ligament has time to heal and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
  • TPLO reduces tibial thrust without having to rely on a dog's cruciate. TPLO surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of your dog's shin bone (called their tibial plateau) and then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. A metal plate will then be added to the area where the cut was made in order to stabilize the bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal to regain their strength and mobility.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
  • TTA surgery involves separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone and then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section of the tibia up and forward. This can help to prevent much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its new corrected position until the bone has had adequate time to heal. 

Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?

A vet will be able to do a thorough exam of your dog's knee in order to assess its movement and geometry. They will consider factors like your dog's weight, age, lifestyle, and size before recommending a proper treatment. 

Once your vet has fully evaluated your pet's condition, they can recommend the best surgery to treat your dog's knee injury.

How long will it take for my dog to recover from knee surgery?

Recovering from knee surgery demands patience and a gradual process. Although some dogs can start walking within 24 hours of the procedure, achieving full recovery and returning to regular activities typically spans over 16 weeks or longer.

Adhering closely to your vet's post-operative instructions will expedite your dog's return to normal activities while minimizing the chances of knee re-injury.

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.

Are you interested in learning more about your dog's treatment options when it comes to knee surgery? Contact TLC Animal Clinic today to get started.

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

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