Ligament Surgery for Dogs

Ligament surgery is indicated when ligaments known as cruciate ligaments present in the hind legs of a dog, are fully torn. Ligaments in both legs generally have a tendency to tear. Breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers are more prone to injury to their cruciate ligaments.

The Knee Joint

The ligaments in your pet’s knee can tear as a result of trauma, injury or exercise. A dog’s knee has 3 bones, namely the tibia, the patella and the femur. These are held together by ligaments which are bands of very strong tissue. Two of the major ligaments that are present include the anterior cruciate ligament and the cranial cruciate ligament. These ligaments crisscross in the knee and their primary function is to prevent the tibia and the femur from rubbing against each other.

Ligaments can tear partially or fully if your pet twists his hind leg while exercising. Overweight dogs, older pets and dogs suffering from arthritis are more likely to tear their ligaments at some point or the other during their lifetime.

Symptoms of Torn Ligament in Dogs

Symptoms of a dog with a torn ligament include:

  • Sudden lameness
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Pain 
  • Favoring the leg with the torn ligament

Treatment of Torn Ligament in Dogs (Anterior Cruciate Ligament)

If the anterior cruciate ligament is torn and the tear is partial, healing is possible if activity is restricted. At this point, the vet’s instructions regarding restricted movement should be strictly adhered to in order to prevent further damage to the ligament. However, if the anterior cruciate ligament is fully torn, surgery will be required. Surgery involves reattachment of the ligament if it’s possible.

 If the ligament tear is such that reattachment is not possible, the ligament is replaced by an artificial one. Activity should be restricted for a fortnight after the surgery to allow the surgery site to heal properly. After almost 15 days, the pet should be allowed to walk but all other activity should be restricted.

Treatment of Torn Ligament in Dogs (Cranial Cruciate Ligament)

Treatment of a torn cranial cruciate ligament depends on the size of the pet. If the pet weighs less than 30 pounds, the ligament can heal on its own with restricted activity. However, if the pet is over 30 pounds, surgery is recommended. Activity should be restricted for 6 weeks following the surgery and after this period your pet should be allowed some light exercise.

Surgery for Torn Ligaments in Dogs

There are 40 types of surgeries that can be performed to repair torn canine ligaments. Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy is the most effective type of surgery especially when it’s performed on an arthritic dog. The repaired ligament post surgery allows the dog to resume his active lifestyle. Once the ligament heals after this surgery, it stays intact and the procedure does not have to be repeated.

You should put your pet on a weight loss program after the surgery to ensure that the repaired ligament stays intact. Physical therapy after 6 weeks of recovery time is necessary to allow your pet to return to the mobile lifestyle he enjoyed before the injury and the treatment.