If your dog is experiencing knee pain due to a torn cruciate ligament (ACL), surgery may be the best treatment option. Today, our Pico Rivera vets look at 3 surgery options for treating this common knee injury in dogs.

Knee Injuries in Dogs

For your pooch to enjoy a happy and active lifestyle it is essential to keep your dog's knees working properly and pain-free.

As with people, the health of your dog's knees is built upon a solid foundation of good nutrition and a suitable level of physical activity.

Having said that, while there are several high-quality dog foods and supplements you can give your pup to help keep their joints in good condition, cruciate ligament injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) can still occur and cause severe knee pain in your dog.

Knee pain stemming from a torn ligament can happen suddenly while your dog is running or playing, or develop gradually over an extended period.

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

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that connect the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone) and allow your pet's knee to move properly.

What is tibial thrust?

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

Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by weight transfer up the shin bone and across the knee, causing the shinbone to "thrust" forward. This forward movement occurs because the tibia's (shin bone's) top is sloped and the dog's injured ligament is unable to prevent unwanted movement.

What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?

If your pooch is suffering from knee pain due to an injured cruciate ligament it will not be able to perform several movements normally, such as walking or running. Other symptoms of knee injuries that you should watch for are: 

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

Can surgery repair my dog's ACL or knee injury?

Ligament injuries in dogs are painful and rarely heal on their own. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of a torn ligament, you should take him or her to the vet to have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before the symptoms worsen.

In many cases, a dog with a torn cruciate ligament in one leg will quickly go on to injure the ligament in the healthy leg. 

If your dog is suffering from a torn cruciate ligament your vet is likely to recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog regain normal mobility.

For the cost of knee surgery for dogs, speak to your vet directly for a more accurate quote.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
  • This knee surgery is frequently used to treat small dogs weighing less than 50 pounds, and it works by preventing tibial thrust with the help of a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your puppy's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing front-to-back sliding of the tibia, allowing the ligament to heal and the muscles surrounding the knee to strengthen.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
  • Without relying on the dog's cruciate, TPLO reduces tibial thrust. A complete cut through the top of the shin bone (the tibial plateau) is made during TPLO surgery, and the tibial plateau is rotated to change its angle. A metal plate is then placed over the cut area to help stabilize the bone as it heals. Your dog's leg will gradually heal over several months, regaining strength and mobility.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
  • TTA surgery entails separating the front of the tibia from the rest of the bone and then inserting a spacer between the two sections to move the front of the tibia up and forward. This can help to prevent a large portion of the tibia thrust movement. A bone plate will be attached to keep the front section of the tibia in its new corrected position until the bone heals.

Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?

Your veterinarian will examine your dog's knee thoroughly to assess its movement and geometry, then consider other factors such as the dog's age, weight, size, and lifestyle. After a thorough examination of your pet's condition, your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best surgery to treat your dog's knee injury.

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

Knee surgery recovery is always a lengthy process that requires patience. While many dogs can walk within 24 hours of surgery, full recovery and return to normal activities can take up to 16 weeks.

Following your vet's post-operative instructions carefully will help your dog to return to normal activities as quickly as safely possible while reducing the risk of re-injuring the knee.

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.

To learn more about surgery options for treating your dog's knee injury, contact our Pico Rivera vets to book an appointment today.