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Knee Surgery in Dogs

If your dog is experiencing knee pain because of a torn cruciate ligament (the equivalent of ACLs in humans), surgery may be your best bet for treatment. Here, our Thousand Oaks vets look at 3 surgery options for treating this very common knee injury in dogs.

Knee Injuries in Dogs

In order for your dog to enjoy a healthy and happy life, it's critical that you help to keep their knees working pain-free and properly.

As with human knees, your dog's knee health is built on a foundation of good nutrition and an appropriate level of physical activity.

That said, while there are a number of high-quality dog foods and supplements that 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 happen and cause your dog a great deal of pain.

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

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

The CCL, cranial cruciate ligament, is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg connecting their two large leg bones, allowing their knee to move properly and without pain.

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 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 a dog's tibia is sloped and the injured ligament won't be able to prevent this painful movement from happening.

What are the signs of a ligament injury in dogs?

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

  • 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 are painful and cannot heal themselves. If your pup is showing signs of a torn ligament, it's important to see your veterinarian to have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe.

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.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
  • This knee surgery treats smaller dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds. It works by preventing 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 so 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 to change its angle. A metal plate will then be added to the area where the cut was made to stabilize the bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal, and your dog should 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, then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section of the tibia up and forward. This can help prevent much of the tibial thrust from happening. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its new corrected position until the bone has had enough time to heal. 

Which type of knee surgery is right for my dog?

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

Once your vet has done a full evaluation of your pet's condition, they 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?

Healing from knee surgery is always a long process that requires patience. While many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after their surgery, a complete recovery and return to their normal activities will likely take 16 weeks or more.

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.

Has your vet told you that your dog needs knee surgery? Contact Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center of Thousand Oaks today to get started on surgery and the path to recovery.

New Patients Welcome

VSEC Thousand Oaks is accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions.

Contact (805) 492-2436