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Veterinary Surgery

Here’s what you need to know about cruciate ligament rupture in pets

Knee injuries in dogs are more common than you think, especially when considering that their knees are one of the weak points in their bodies. Knee joints are unstable as they lack interlocking bones. The femur and tibia – the two main bones – are linked by a number of ligaments, one of which is the cruciate ligament. When this ligament ruptures the knee joint becomes unstable and unable to carry weight on the leg.

A strong contributing factor to the cause of cruciate rupture is obesity. Excessive weight can weaken ligaments, leading them to tear more easily. If you are concerned that your pet is overweight, it is important to consult with an experienced vet. Not only will weight problems prolong the recovery period after surgeries, the condition will also make the other knees vulnerable to instability as well.

There are two reliable and safe ways to diagnose if a Cruciate Ligament Rupture has occurred. Both require the specialist expertise of an experienced orthopaedic vet.

The best and easiest is to perform the ‘drawer sign’ - moving the two main bones in a specific direction to detect instability. This can be performed with the dog conscious; however, if your dog experiences pain or is uncooperative, a vet will then have to rely on a sedative or anaesthetic to perform a comprehensive examination of the knee joint.

The best course of action in treating a ligament rupture is surgery performed by a skilled orthopaedic vet. In order to stabilise the knee joint there are a number of techniques available such as ligament replacement, De Angelis procedure and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement.

Once your pet has undergone the surgical treatment, post-operative care begins with rest followed by the progressive introduction of exercise. Basic physiotherapy can boost the recovery process.

Left untreated without proper surgical attention from an orthopaedic vet, Cruciate Ligament Rupture can lead to the development of arthritis (this will happen eventually but surgery slows it down) and lameness will set it, a permanent disability.

Should you have any questions on the surgical procedures used to treat ligament ruptures in dogs, please consult with our specialist team at Clayton’s South East Animal Hospital.