703-591-3304

If Your Dog is Limping it May Be His “ACL”

Published on December 3, 2014

Featured Item

Canine Cruciate (Knee Ligament) Injuries Explained

One of the most common causes of rear limb lameness in dogs is cruciate disease.  This injury often varies from running in the back yard to finding the pet three legged lame when arriving home from work.  It can be an acute injury or a slowly progressive disease.  It can affect all breeds, genders, ages, and lifestyles (i.e. from couch potato to athlete).  Cruciate disease may present as a non weight bearing lameness to stiffness upon rising.  If your pet is exhibiting lameness for more than 48 hours, he or she should be examined by a veterinarian.  Cruciate disease is diagnosed based on physical exam findings, sometimes with the benefit of radiology.

On physical exam, we look for three major clinical signs:

  1. First, we palpate (feel) the affected limb to look for joint swelling and signs of discomfort.  Cruciate disease is often accompanied by medial buttressing of the knee which is swelling of the inside of the joint.  In a normal joint, there is a depression between the upper leg (femur) and lower leg (tibia).  If you can no longer feel this depression then we say it has buttressing.
  2. Second, we look for cranial drawer movement which is an abnormal forward backward movement of the knee.  When cranial drawer is present that is consistent with cruciate instability.
  3. Third, we check for a positive sit response which happens when the patient will sit with the affected leg stuck out to the side instead of a tight tucked position.

The next step diagnostically is radiology (x-rays).  Radiographs will tell us three things:

  1. Whether there is joint effusion (increased fluid in the joint) and secondary boney changes.
  2. Rule out the atypical causes of cruciate injury, like cruciate occurring secondary to tumors.
  3. What type of medical or surgical options are best for your pet.

There are two types of cruciate injuries, full tears and partial tears.

The cruciate ligament is like a rope with multiple bundle branches.  Sometimes the ligament will fray like a rope and not totally rupture.  The menisci are the cushions between the two bones.  The menisci are anchored to the lower bone by a ligament.  If there is abnormal forward backward movement, sometimes the menisci will tear.  All of these things affect what you and the doctor decide regarding treatment options for your pet.  Other things that need to be discussed are size of the pet, age of the pet, and lifestyle of the pet.  The doctor will also discuss consequences of each type of treatment and expected outcomes.

The two major categories of treatment are medical management and surgical management.

Medical management often consists of anti inflammatory medication, glucosamine products, pain management, and sometimes braces.  Surgical options include extra capsular repair, tibia plateau leveling osteotomy, and tibia plateau advancement.  At Pender, we typically incorporate medical and surgical options into patient treatment plans.

There are multiple theories of why cruciate tears occur.  From athletic trauma, infectious causes, genetic predispositions, early spay/ neuters, and multiple other factors.  Unfortunately these are just theories and research is ongoing; as we get better at understanding all of the causes, we will get better at preventing and treating the disease.

An in depth description of the different surgical options is beyond the scope of this blog, but I would love to discuss any questions you may have about your pet’s symptoms and/or treatment options.

Featured Image

Article by: Dr. Denney

© Copyright 2019 PenderVet. All rights reserved.

Strengthened by Alliant Studios