Cruciate Ligament Injury and Repair in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Injury and Repair in Dogs

The knee (stifle) joint of the dog is one of the weakest in the body. Just as athletes (football players, in particular) frequently suffer knee injuries, the dog also has knee injuries. When severe twisting or excessive extension of the joint occurs, the most common injury is a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). When it is torn, instability occurs that allows the bones to move in an abnormal fashion in relation to one another. When this happens, it is not possible to bear weight on the leg without it collapsing.

Contributing Factors
A special note is appropriate concerning the dog’s weight. Obesity or excessive weight can be a strong contributing factor in cruciate rupture. The ligament may become weakened due to carrying too much weight; this causes it to tear easily. Obesity will make the recovery time much longer, and it will make the other knee very susceptible to cruciate rupture. If your dog has a weight problem, there are prescription diets that can be used to assist weight reduction.

Prevalence
Rupture of the ACL is most common in middle aged and older dogs, particularly those that are overweight house pets.

Causes
In younger dogs, rupture of the ACL is usually the result of trauma to the stifle joint. In some cases, the ligament may only partially tear; however, this will eventually lead to complete tearing of the ligament. When ACL rupture occurs in older dogs, it is most frequently initiated by a progressive degenerative change in the ligament with eventual total rupture.

Clinical Signs
Dogs with a ruptured ACL are usually lame and may refuse to bear weight on the affected leg. Eventually, most dogs become more willing to bear weight but some degree of lameness remains.

Diagnosis
The most reliable means of diagnosing this injury is to move the femur and tibia in a certain way to demonstrate the instability. This movement is called a “drawer sign.” It can usually be demonstrated with the dog awake. If the dog is very painful, has very strong leg muscles, or is uncooperative, it may be necessary to use sedation in order to examine the joint adequately.

Treatment
Correction of ACL rupture requires surgery. A skilled surgeon can fashion a replacement ligament and stabilize the joint so it functions normally or near normally. If surgery is not performed within a few days to a week, arthritic changes will begin that cannot be reversed, even with surgery.

Occasionally, the injury that causes a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament will also result in tearing of one or both of the menisci or “cartilages.” At the time of surgery, these are examined and removed if necessary.

Prognosis
Following proper and prompt surgical correction, the joint is sound again. Most dogs walk and run without any lameness; however, some have either a mild limp or lameness associated with cold and damp weather.

Occasionally, a dog that has a ruptured cruciate ligament will become sound (will no longer limp), even if surgery is not performed. However, progressive, degenerative arthritis will develop and result in lameness a few months later. Once these degenerative changes are established, the lameness cannot be corrected, even with surgery.

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Dear Greenway Pet Clinic Clients:

The global spread of COVID-19 is a concern for everyone. I wanted to let you know that Greenway Pet Clinic has also taken some preventative measures to ensure everyone’s safety, clients and employees alike.

We are continuing to do curbside service only, with the exception of end of life appointments. We appreciate peoples understanding about not entering the clinic. It is for everyone’s safety to keep a distance and not be confined in a small space. We also ask that clients wear masks when interacting with the staff. We wear masks continually inside so we can provide care to your pets and not spread the virus between each other.

I ask that if you are sick, stay home and do not bring your pet in. Please find someone else to bring your pet in if he or she needs to be seen. I want to try to accommodate all our patients but won’t be able to do that if my staff and I get sick.

In addition to daily temperature checks upon starting a shift and wearing a mask, any staff member who starts to feel sick will be sent home and asked to go get tested. If they do have the Coronavirus, they will have to stay home a minimum of ten days or 24 hours past resolution of signs if longer than ten days.

I am not sure when this curbside protocol will end. Unfortunately, this pandemic is far from being under control. I am looking forward to the day when the infection rate is under control and we can again have some sense of normalcy.

Please be safe and take care, Carole Treat DVM