Cruciate ligament injuries are a common hind leg problem in the dog.  They occur in the stifle or knee.  We see two types of injury.  The first, and less common injury, is the sporting injury.  This is the type of injury that occurs in people (especially footballers.)  The dog is running along and the foot gets caught in something.  The body and top half of the leg keep going, the lower half of the legs stays where it is and the cruciate ligaments take all the force and rupture.  The second type of injury we see is a slow stretch of the cruciate ligament that eventually snaps.  The slow stretch is due to conformation and is exacerbated by excess weight.

Dogs with a ruptured cruciate will typically hold the leg up and not put any weight on the limb.  Dogs under going the slow stretch may show stiffness on rising or unwillingness to exercise.   If your dog is limping, it is essential that you take him or her for a vet check up.  The vet will be able to ascertain if the cruciate ligament has been damaged and prescribe pain killers and anti-inflammatories.

Cruciate injuries can be managed surgically or non-surgically.  Which ever route you choose your dog will still suffer with arthritis as a result of having damaged the cruciate ligament.

Surgical management

There are a large number of surgical techniques decribed but commonly one of three techniques is used.  The first is a lateral embrication suture.  This aims to stabilise the joint by placing a false ligament on the outside of the joint.  The second technique is a TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy.)  Here the top of the shin bone (tibia) is cut and rotated to render the action of the cruciate ligament redundant.  After rotation the bones are held in place with a metal plate.  The third technique is a TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement.)  Here the attachment of the patella ligament onto the shin bone (tibia) is cut and moved forward to neutralise the backward pull of the thigh muscles (quadriceps.)  Any dog having undergone surgery will benefit from rehabilitation and physiotherapy.  We use special techniques to protect and encourage the healing of the operation site including the bone.

Non surgical management

Here we focus on building muscle around the joint to act as support while maintaining joint range of motion and controlling pain.  The program is similar to the post op. program.

How we treat cruciate ligament problems

Our treatments for cruciate ligament problems include light exercise in our underwater treadmill. It allows the dog to exercise without putting the pressure on the joint.  The action of pushing the leg through water ( a bit like walking across a swimming pool) builds muscle far quicker than swimming.  Also because we can control the speed of the treadmill and the depth of the water we can start treatment post op. much earlier than swimming. . Repeated sessions on our hydro treadmill for dogs will ensure that your dog stays healthy. It ensures that no muscle is lost and that it stays fit. These are important factors in the healing process. We also carry out pet physiotherapy using lasers, ultrasound, pulsed electromagnetic therapy and electro-muscle stimulation to help build muscle and control pain.  We also devise a tailor -made home exercise program to ensure that the dog stays mobile. We recommend  2 sessions per week initially but the frequency drops quickly as your pet recovers.

What should you do at home?

Do as the vet suggests by keeping your pet restricted so that it can’t move around too much. Our treatments at the canine clinic will give him or her the exercise it needs. When you take the dog to the toilet ensure that it is on a lead and don’t walk far. You should also avoid stairs, jumping, slipping and anything else that might jar the joint. Be very strict with this. Recovery does take time.

If your dog has a problem with their cruciate ligament we can help you to make it heal faster and relieve the pain your pet is suffering. Contact us to find out more.

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