Dog ACL Injuries Veterinarian

If either of your dog’s hind legs has become lame, it may indicate that he or she has torn 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, which 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, entails installing 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 are repositioned with either implants or metal plates. This changes how the bones interact with each other, realigning the tibial plateau angle 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 some veterinarians 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 surgery method are higher than those posed by 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 traditional 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 such cases, rehabilitation, even without surgery, often proves a powerful tool in helping your dog recover. The process of rehabilitation both post-surgically and, in the absence of it, begins 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 patient’s needs 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 the 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 a Veterinarian, as any mistakes will hinder your dog’s progress to recovery. Additionally, there will be in-office exercises, including balance boards, cavaletti rails, giant balls, and/or the use of surfaces for walking, hopping, and wheelbarrowing.

Veterinarian for Dog ACL Injuries

Rehabilitation will also involve some restrictions. Instructions which will likely include 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 furniture, and/or what type of bed to use. Periodically, the measurements taken at the beginning of the rehabilitation will be updated alongside evaluations of the patient’s balance, strength, proprioception, and discomfort.