Dog ACL Injuries Veterinarian

If either of your Dog’s hind legs has become lame, it may indicate that he or she has teared or ruptured his or her Cranial Cruciate Ligament, also known as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL. When functioning normally, the ACL keeps the knee joint stable, but chronic rotational stress on the area can cause it to tear. Tears and ruptures of these ligaments are more common than any other musculoskeletal disorder we see in adult dogs. Signs of an ACL tear in dogs, such as lameness and internal swelling of the knee, may come on quickly or slowly, but, unlike with humans, these injuries are almost always debilitating.

ACL Surgery
The ideal method of treatment for ACL in dogs is surgery followed by rehabilitative therapy. There are two dominant methods of surgical treatment for ACL. The first, known as the “conventional” or “traditional” method, involves the installation of a restraint to hold the bones in place at the joint, allowing almost normal movement of the joint. Over time, this causes resilient, fibrous scar tissue to form around the joint, which provides better stability in the long term. In the second, newer method, the bones in the area are cut, and sections of them are repositioned with either implants or metal plates. This changes the manner in which the bones interact with each other, realigning the angle of the tibial plateau at the stifle joint, this method uses one of two procedures: TPLO and TTA. Both of these methods should be followed up with rehabilitation.

While there are veterinarians who recommend the latter method for most or even all dogs, this approach has some issues. Firstly, TPLO and TTA surgeries are both especially invasive procedures. Therefore, the risks of serious complications posed by this method of surgery is higher than is the case with traditional surgery. TPLO and TTA are also expensive; and often lie beyond the means of pet owners, while conventional surgery is generally far more affordable. For most dogs, therefore, we recommend the conventional method of surgery. However, TPLO or TTA surgery might be necessary if your dog is large and/or active and energetic.

ACL Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation is strongly recommended after either method of surgery is performed. On the other hand, issues of age, health, or finances may render a dog ineligible for either kind of surgery. In these cases, rehabilitation, even without surgery, can prove a powerful tool in helping your dog recover. The process of rehabilitation both post surgically and in the absence of it begin similarly.

The rehabilitation process starts with a set of measurements to determine the flexibility and amount of muscle in each of the leg’s joints. After this is finished, and the veterinarian is made aware of the needs of the patient and aims of the client, the veterinarian will design a therapeutic plan to meet those specifications. Among other elements, the plan may entail therapies for any combination of the following:
● Reducing Pain
● Increasing the range of movement
● Minimizing swelling
● Building proprioception and balance.
● Bolstering muscle strength

The process almost always involves instructions related to exercise. These may include walking for specific lengths (increasing over time), jogging, stand-to-sit exercises, walking or swimming in water, climbing steps, and/or passive range of motion exercises. It may be instructed that heat or cold packets are applied to exerted areas before, during, or after the activity. These exercises should always be performed under the supervision of a Veterinarian, as any mistakes will hinder your dog’s progress to recovery. Additionally, there will be in-office exercises, which may include balance boards, cavaletti rails, giant balls, and/or the use of surfaces for walking, hopping, and wheelbarrowing.

Rehabilitation will also involve some restrictions, which will likely include instructions as to how often and how long to walk your pet, what variety of leash or harness you should use, whether or not to allow your pet to go up and down stairs or jump up to the furniture, and/or what type of bed to use. Periodically, the measurements which were taken at the beginning of the rehabilitation will be updated, alongside evaluations of the patient’s balance, strength, proprioception, and discomfort.