Understanding Your Dog’s Knee Anatomy

The Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) in dogs is comparable to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in humans. As you look at your dog when they are standing, you will notice that their hind legs bend inward to a slight degree. This is your dog’s knee, which is stabilized by a complex network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Similarly to humans, your dog’s knee is responsible for the flexion and extension of their leg, which is also the load-bearing joint that can become stressed over time. Because this joint and the supportive tissues withstand a great deal of weight, stress, and tension, a CCL tear is responsible for about 85% of all orthopedic injuries in dogs.

How a CCL Injury Affects Your Dog

When the CCL is injured, it can cause symptoms as minor as inflammation or it can be as severe as a complete rupture. Depending on the type of tear or complete rupture, this common injury can cause your pet mild to severe pain, limit their mobility, and may even prevent them from enjoying all the fun activities that come along with being a dog.

Generally, this type of injury causes pain and inflammation to occur due to the femur rubbing and sliding against the back of the tibia, making it painful and difficult for your dog to bear weight on the leg and move it without discomfort. This injury often affects one knee, but can develop in the other knee, too. When a partial tear occurs and goes untreated, it will worsen over time and gradually progresses into a full tear.

Common Causes

A partial or full tear of the CCL is often caused by a combination of factors, while a rupture is usually caused by some type of trauma. Here are some of the common causes to be aware of:

  • Aging
  • Tissue degeneration
  • Poor physical condition
  • Obesity
  • Breed

In the case that a surgical repair is required, our skilled and compassionate surgical team is proud to offer state-of-the-art laser surgery to restore function and mobility while relieving pain and discomfort. If you suspect your precious pup has injured their knee, contact Eagle Animal Hospital and Pet Resort to schedule a consultation and exam to determine if TPLO surgery is the best option for your dog.

What Is TPLO Surgery?

Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) is the recommended procedure for effectively repairing your dog’s knee injury. We have found that this surgical procedure has a higher success rate and using cutting-edge laser technology to perform this surgery offers a number of benefits. Your pet’s surgeon will surgically cut the bone (osteotomy) in the tibial plateau and then rotate the contact surface of the tibia, thereby reorienting the bone and stabilizing the stifle joint. Of course, your vet will explain your pet’s procedure in greater detail, but this gives you a general idea of the procedure itself.     

The TPLO Recovery Process

Post-Operative Care

As with any major orthopedic surgery, the recovery process is lengthy, but it is essential to the proper healing of their repair. Immediately following their surgery, your pet will rest comfortably in a heated post-op recovery suite as we monitor their vitals and any signs of pain. Because every pet is different, the monitoring time varies; while some pets can be sent home the day of the surgery, others may need to stay overnight.

Upon discharge, your vet will provide you with all the information you need for proper home care, and may prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories for pain management and to help keep them comfortable. Our Client Care team is ready to assist you with any questions you have after returning home with your pet and you can always contact your vet vis the Virtual Vet tool.

Long-Term Recovery

The first 12 weeks are the most crucial to their recovery as the bone and supportive tissues begin healing, but total recovery can take up to 6 months, given there are no complications. Your surgeon and veterinarian will provide you with pain medications, referrals for therapies, exercises, and other methods to assist with your pet’s optimal recovery. Additionally, we will offer step-by-step guidance to assist you, pet parent, so you have everything you need to take an active role in their recovery. Post-surgical care such as therapies,   

Potential Complications Following TPLO Surgery

After your pet undergoes TPLO surgery, it is essential to follow your vet’s recommended recovery protocols to ensure the repair heals properly and that they do not reinjure the knee during recovery. Here are some points to consider:

  • Infection – Infection is the number one complication of TPLO surgery that can have a devastating effect on your pup. That’s why it is essential to keep the incision sites clean to prevent infection. What’s more, your dog’s natural response to the wounds will be to lick the sites where the incisions were made, so you will need to help prevent your dog from licking the wound. As much as we all dislike them, your vet will prescribe a lampshade, E-Collar, or another method to prevent licking and to deter the onset of infection.
  • Over-Activity – During recovery, it is important to limit over-activity and over-use — even if your pet seems to be feeling better — as overuse can reinjure the extremity that is healing. Light exercise is great for them and can help the repair heal properly with a good range of motion, but overdoing it can irritate the repair, causing inflammation, pain, and other symptoms. Keep in mind that the return to normal activity levels is a gradual process and varies from dog-to-dog depending on age, general health, and other factors. Here are a few tips to consider to help prevent over-activity:
    • Avoid, or at the very least limit, going up-and-down stairs.
    • Assist them with getting in-and-out of vehicles.
    • Keep them from jumping up onto furniture, such as beds and couches.
    • Take shorter walks and avoid hiking on inclines until fully healed (then talk to your vet).
    • Monitor playtime, especially with other dogs.
    • Avoid dog parks and agility courses.
    • Try to prevent them from jumping up to greet you and your guests.

Contact Our Client Care Team

As a pet parent, you want nothing but the best for your furry best friend. If you think your pet has injured their CCL, reach out to Kansas City’s most trusted animal hospital to schedule your dog for a vet exam and surgical consultation. At Eagle Animal Hospital and Pet Resort, our entire team is committed to helping your dog live a healthy, happy, and active life, regardless of which stage of life they are in.

Would you prefer to reach out to your veterinarian remotely? Now you can! Contact our Client Care team to enroll in our Virtual Vet program and connect to your veterinarian from the comfort of your home, office, or wherever you have access to the internet.