Anterior Cruciate Injuries in Dogs

The anterior cruciate ligament is the ligament in your dog's knee that stabilizes the joint and allows it to move. Rupture of this ligament can be painful and even crippling for your dog, and it's one of the most common ligament injuries dogs suffer from. Fortunately, treatment can return your dog's mobility and relieve his pain, if administered promptly. Read on to learn more.

Causes of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in Dogs

Usually, anterior cruciate ligament rupture occurs due to ordinary athletic injuries. That's why they're especially common in sporting and working dogs, or dogs who are very active. Often, injury occurs because the dog twisted his leg, landed wrong after a jump, or something of that nature. Obese dogs and very small breed dogs are also more vulnerable to anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in Dogs

Often, symptoms of anterior cruciate ligament injury appear suddenly, at the time the injury occurs. This type of knee injury can cause intense pain in the leg, as well as immediate lameness of the affected leg. If your dog suddenly begins limping, carrying one of his hind legs above the ground, or develops sudden problems with putting weight on one of his hind legs, then he has probably suffered an injury to one of the ligaments in his knee.

Diagnosing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in Dogs

If you think your dog has suffered a knee injury, it's important he gets treatment right away. Delaying treatment can cause permanent damage to the knee joint, subjecting your dog to lameness and pain for the rest of his life. Treatment, however, can help your dog recover quickly and regain the full use of his leg.

Your vet will probably be able to diagnose anterior cruciate ligament injury with a physical exam and an X-ray. MRIs may be necessary in some cases. If you know how your dog hurt himself, tell your vet; it might be useful for your dog's diagnosis and treatment.

Treating Anterior Cruciate Injuries in Dogs

Sometimes, dogs can recover from this type of knee injury without surgery. Usually, very small dogs weighing less than 20 pounds can recover with cage rest and very limited activity. Dogs who recover with cage rest alone may be at an increased risk of re-injuring the knee later in life. If your dog is bigger, or his injury is severe, he may need surgery.

There are three types of surgery used to treat knee injuries in dogs. The most basic form of canine knee surgery uses sutures to replace the torn ligament. While this surgery is inexpensive and effective in the short term, the results often don't hold out over the long term.

Two more advanced surgeries, the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and the tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA), are far complex and expensive than the traditional surgery. Both of them, however, can provide excellent results in the long-term, without a very minimal risk of re-injuring the knee later in life.