Orthopedic issues occur frequently in dogs, especially ones affecting the knee. All too often, a pet owner sees their dog coming in from the backyard, limping on a hind leg. Fortunately, the dedicated team at Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital offers the most advanced surgical procedures to repair these knee injuries. If your pooch is suffering from a knee injury, you may notice the following signs:

  • Difficulty rising
  • Lameness
  • Trouble jumping into the car, or onto furniture
  • Refusing to use stairs
  • Decreased activity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Stiffness
  • Refusing to play

At the first sign of an orthopedic injury in your dog, schedule an appointment at our hospital. If left untreated, your pet may suffer from painful joint degeneration and osteoarthritis development. 

Cranial cruciate ligament injury

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is one of the most important stabilizers in the canine knee joint, and is similar to a person’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In dogs, this ligament can partially tear, or rupture completely, severely hampering their ability to support weight on that leg. 

A CCL injury is usually caused by many factors, rather than one instigating cause, which may include:

  • Athletic injury
  • Aging or degeneration of the ligament
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal conformation
  • Breed

CCL rupture is the most common reason for hind-limb lameness, pain, and subsequent knee arthritis in dogs, and is similar to the knee injury often seen in professional athletes. A CCL tear destabilizes the knee, damaging the joint cartilage when the bones slide against one another. Without repair, the injury will almost always cause significant function loss, and severe degenerative changes in the knee joint, over time. Once one CCL is damaged, 40% to 60% of dogs will develop a similar problem in the other knee. Partial CCL tearing, which progresses to a full tear over time, is also common. 

A variety of surgical methods are used to repair a CCL tear, but the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy procedure (TPLO) is the gold standard. Other methods attempt to replace the damaged ligament with grafts or artificial materials, but a TPLO alters the physical forces in the knee. During surgery, the top of the tibia is “leveled,” which eliminates the need for a cranial cruciate ligament, and prevents the bones from shifting as your dog walks. Twin Maples provides the highest standard of care, as we have been performing this advanced procedure since 2003.   

Medial patellar luxation in dogs

The patella, or knee cap, is a small bone buried in the quadriceps muscle tendon in the knee, and normally sits in a groove on the distal femur. For dogs who are affected by patellar luxation, the patella shifts outside the groove when the knee flexes. Patellar luxation, one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs, affects 7% of puppies and primarily small breeds, such as Boston and Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, pomeranians, and miniature poodles, although the problem is becoming more common in large breeds. 

Medial patellar luxation is frequently caused by a congenital or developmental misalignment of the entire limb, and can include issues with the hip joint, femur, tibial crest, quadriceps muscle, and the patellar ligament itself. Dogs with patellar luxation have a shallow, or absent, femoral groove, causing the knee cap to essentially pop out of place. Depending on the degree of luxation, the knee may remain locked, or the patella will pop in and out as the dog walks. Most dogs with this disease will hold their leg up for a few steps, and then attempt to kick or shake the limb to regain full use. 

Luxating patella repair relies on determining the root cause, or causes, of the unstable patella. Surgical procedures can deepen the femoral groove, realign the quadriceps, or correct an abnormally shaped femur. Occasionally, multiple procedures are needed to fully correct a luxating patella. 

Have you noticed your pooch limping occasionally? Give us a call, so we can check out the cause behind her lameness, and treat the problem before it worsens.