ACL injury in the dog

Part 3 Surgical stabilization of ACL injury

Last post we talked about immediate pain management for the partial or complete ACL (CrCL) tear.  This is symptomatic therapy for the initial injury.  However, in order to improve comfort and function, to help decrease the severity of osteoarthritis, and to decrease strain on the rest of the body, I recommend stabilizing the knee with surgery or a dog knee brace (orthosis).  This is because, unlike humans, dogs stand with their hip, knee, and ankle flexed at all times.  This stance means that the instability and discomfort caused by the injured ACL is never relieved unless there is NO weight bearing on the leg. A dog knee brace is now looked at a viable second alternative to ACL/CCL surgery.

There are many surgical solutions for this injury.  The most common are the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), the tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA), the tight rope, and the so-called extracapsular or lateral suture repair.  The purpose of each is to control abnormal movement (instability) in the knee.  However, the current state of science in this area has yet to determine the very best surgical approach.  The choice of which surgery to utilize depends on the dog, its lifestyle, and client goals.   Recovery is typically 8 weeks and, just as for humans with knee injury, professional rehabilitation (physical therapy) is very important.  This should start immediately after surgery and continue for several months.  We recommend consulting a certified rehabilitation specialist (CCRT or CCRP).  For more information and resources you can check out the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (www.caninerehabilitation.com).

For many reasons, some dogs cannot or will not undergo surgery.  Some of these reasons include unsafe anesthesia candidate, additional health concerns, advanced age, or financial constraints among many others.  Until recently there were no options for these dogs and they were destined for a life of debilitating osteoarthritis and chronic medications. This is how a dog knee brace can also be used to treat the recovery of your pet.