Those who watch or play football have most likely heard of a "torn ACL" or ligament injury of the knee. Dogs can suffer the same injury. Larger dogs often suffer an acute injury after a sudden twisting, slipping or impact injury to a hind leg. It could also be a result of chronic degenerative or structural issues with the knee, such as obesity, arthritis, or a luxating patella (knee-cap moves in and out of place). The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the dog may be partially or completely torn in this injury, resulting in hind-leg lameness or non-weight bearing of the leg, pain and possibly some swelling at the knee joint. Typically it is seen in larger breed dogs such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Pit Bulls, and Rottweiler’s, but any breed can be affected.
A diagnosis of a torn cranial cruciate ligament is based on a description of the onset of symptoms, radiographs to look for boney abnormalities (positioning or arthritic changes), and manipulation of the knee joint, sometimes with sedation, to feel for "cranial drawer" or abnormal joint laxity. Surgical intervention is recommended for most cases of torn or partially torn CCLs. Smaller dogs under 25 pounds may stabilize and be comfortable without surgical intervention using arthritis medications.
There are various surgical techniques for repairing a torn ligament, and new techniques are evolving. The goal of surgery is to "re-create" the torn ligament using suture material and/or plates and screws. Often, the meniscus, which is the cushion or “shock absorber” between the upper and lower leg bones is torn or crushed due to the instability of the ligament injury. At the time of surgery, the meniscus is evaluated and removed if necessary. The technique used here at Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital is a modified Lateral Suture / Anchoring technique, and our success rate meets or exceeds those published in veterinary journals. After surgery, the patient is sent home with pain and anti-inflammatory medications. We see the typical patient become weight bearing in 5 to 7 days. Strict leash walking for 6 to 8 weeks is followed by a gradual increase in activity. Keeping the patient compliant is often the most difficult part of the recovery.
When surgical intervention occurs in a timely manner, the prognosis for normal functioning and pain management is good. If the injury is not surgically corrected in time, degenerative joint disease (DJD) more commonly known as arthritis will occur and the damage will become permanent. It is not unusual for the ligament in the opposite leg to rupture at some future point in time due to pre-existing degenerative changes and /or the stress placed on the uninjured leg at time of initial injury.
At Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital, we perform 1-2 cruciate surgeries per week and provide exceptional pain management and attention to your recovering pet. The cost of this surgery offers an economical advantage of specialty centers with outstanding results. Care Credit is accepted as a long-term payment option to ease financial constraints.