Torn cranial cruciate ligament surgery
Like humans, dogs can suffer from painful knee conditions that affect movement and overall wellbeing. One of the most common causes of knee degeneration in dogs is injury to the cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL. Dog owners often become aware of this when they notice unexplained limping or difficulty in using a rear leg, which can become chronic if left untreated. In such cases, surgery can provide a dramatic improvement in a dog’s quality of life.
For advice from an experienced veterinarian about cruciate ligament surgery, pet owners in Melbourne’s Bayside can rely on Moorabbin Veterinary Hospital.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about cranial cruciate ligament injury in dogs, and what to expect when bringing your pet in for surgery.
What causes CCL injury?
The rupture usually results from a twist on the rear leg (e.g. while running) that puts excessive tension on the ligament. Various factors may increase the likelihood of this happening:
- Age-related degeneration and arthritis (meaning it’s more common middle aged to senior dogs)
- Higher susceptibility in some breeds (e.g. large and giant breeds, working dogs like the border collie)
- Being overweight or inactive
- Previous knee injury
How does it effect my dog?
The role of the cruciate ligament in dogs is to stabilise the knee joint by stopping the thigh and shin bones from rubbing against each other. A torn or ruptured cruciate ligament, then, results in friction, inflammation, injury to cartilage and eventually arthritis. It is the most common cause of both chronic rear leg lameness and arthritis. It will aggravate existing arthritis.
What about cats?
Cats can also suffer from this condition, although it is more prevalent in dogs.
How can it be treated surgically?
There are several surgical techniques that can be used in treating pain and movement impairment resulting from ruptures of the cranial cruciate ligament. Our experienced vets will advise you on which option is best for your dog.
- On dogs heavier than 10-15kg, we primarily use the TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) surgery to stabilise the knee joint when the CCL is not functional.
- On smaller dogs, we perform extracapsular repair through a method called the De Angelis technique. The suture used in this technique is a temporary intervention that restricts joint movement for the duration of recovery (usually at least 12 weeks of intensive restriction). This enables scar tissue and supportive tissue to develop within the knee.
- Another possibility is TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery. This surgery alters the bones of the knee to level and stabilise its movement. Dog owners seeking this option can arrange to have it performed at our hospital by a visiting surgeon.
A brief outline of TTA and TPLO surgeries can be found at the bottom of this page.
Do I need to do anything before my pet goes in for surgery?
It’s important that you do not give your pet any food after 8pm the night before the surgery. During this fasting period water is still completely fine. Before coming to the hospital on the morning of the surgery, remember to take your pet for a short walk to allow them to get rid of any waste.
What happens after the surgery?
We ensure your pet is kept as comfortable as possible in a calm and climate controlled area during their stay with us. This is to aid in the healing process, monitor any pain or chance of infection, and speed up recovery from anaesthetic. One of our experienced staff members will watch your pet to ensure recovery goes as smoothly as possible. Patients are given a nutritious meal after surgery and dogs are walked before being released back into your care.
Once your pet is home, it’s vitally important that you follow all instructions given to you by your vet. In order to promote a faster recovery from anaesthetic, it helps to give your pet some food and water when you arrive home. Make sure your pet is kept warm and comfortable in a quiet place.
While recovering, it is essential that you limit your pet’s range of activities – you will be advised on this by your surgeon. To reduce the risk of tearing any stitches and avoiding infection, collars (cones) need be worn at all times for as long as your vet has advised. Medication (including pain relief) must be given at the advised times for the entire course of treatment – see packaging for details from your vet.
For the first month following surgery, your pet will be seen weekly by our vets, and receive a course of an arthritis injection called Synovan. During these visits our vets will assess the surgical wound, your pet’s comfort levels, and go over physiotherapy requirements.
After that, your pet will have two more monthly visits to make sure all is going well. If you have concerns at any point, please feel free to get in touch with us on 03 9555 4808.
About TPLO Surgery
In this procedure, a new joint angle is created through surgical alteration and plating of the head of the tibia (a lower leg bone). This new angle prevents the femur (the upper leg bone) from sliding off the tibia, increasing knee joint stability.
When considering TPLO surgery, dog owners should be aware that the procedure involves the surgical cutting and plating of bone. It is therefore highly invasive and, as with all surgeries, carries a risk of complications (both during and after the operation).
About TTA Surgery
This is a relatively recent technique for cranial cruciate ligament repair. The procedure is bio mechanically similar to TPLO in that it involves surgically altering and plating the bones in the injured joint; however, it avoids over correcting the angle at which the bones meet, as TPLO can be prone to do.
Compared to TPLO, TTA surgery is simpler for vets to perform and carries fewer risks. Still, it carries a risk of operative and post-operative complications, as with all surgical procedures.