Knee problems in dogs
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from an array of knee problems. The most common knee problem of dogs is a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This condition can cause significant pain, resulting in lameness and reduced activity. If left unchecked the arthritis that can ensue in the joint can be significantly debilitating for the dog.
The ACL is a ligament that joins the femur to the tibia and provides stabilisation for the knee joint in the hind limbs of the dog. The front legs of dogs are similar to our arms and therefore don’t have a knee joint so ACL problems only affect the back legs. Older, overweight pets tend to be more commonly affected however the problem can occur at any age in any breed. Typically, the ACL simply wears out due to calcification of the ligament. Less commonly, rupture of the ligament is associated with an injury from overexertion during activity which is similar to humans with the same problem.
After the ligament ruptures there is significant swelling in the joint that can be detected with an x-ray. Our vets can also feel the joint for signs of laxity which aids in the diagnosis, sometimes sedation is required for this to help pets relax and allow examination. In some cases there is also an injury to the cartilage of the knee joint which causes further pain and arthritis.
The best treatment of a ruptured ACL in dogs is the same as for active humans – surgery. Given most dogs enjoy an active life, conservative (non-surgical) treatment often leads to poor results and significant problems later in life. Once a dog ruptures their ACL in one leg they have a 50-60% chance of injuring the other knee joint in the other leg the same way. After surgery there is a rehabilitation period of 10-12 weeks before normal activity can be resumed.
If your dog is limping it is important to note that this means they are in pain and should be checked by one of our team immediately. Pain relieving medication can be given while a diagnosis is being determined by x-rays and other tests. If you have any questions please contact our your local Sydney Animal Hospitals on;