Dog knee injuries may have some correlation with poor conformation, but a dog’s weight, health, and activities all have a significant impact.
A patellar luxation or a cruciate ligament damage is the most common knee injury in dogs. An abnormal patellar conformation, also known as a patellar luxation, or dislocation, is typically caused by congenital abnormalities. Despite the possibility of a conformational component, trauma is typically the cause of cruciate ligament injuries. Both are painful and need medical attention from a veterinarian.
Your dog’s patella is its kneecap. The femoral trochlear groove, which is naturally present at the femur’s end, is where the patella ordinarily slides up and down in the middle of the knee. Unfortunately, the dog’s knee might develop genetic flaws that cause the kneecap to slide to one side or the other. A lateral luxation occurs when it slips to the outside. It is a medial luxation if it slides inward.
The majority of medial luxations affect tiny breeds like Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Miniature Poodles, and Pomeranians, Akitas, Great Pyrenees, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Chinese Shar Peis, and other large dogs frequently exhibit lateral luxations.
Only 7% of puppies have patellar issues, and the majority of them exhibit signs of luxation in both back legs.
You might notice your dog “skipping” occasionally when he moves, holding up a leg, or pausing and extending out his back limb before moving again if his kneecap is misaligned. Puppies with severe luxations may modify their stance, giving them a knock-kneed or bowlegged appearance (medial luxation) (lateral luxation).
Physical examinations are typically used to identify kneecap issues. Due to the possibility of an association between the two issues, your veterinarian will also examine your pet’s cranial cruciate. X-rays are frequently advised to check for further orthopedic issues that can affect treatment, like hip dysplasia.
Treatment is dependent on how severe the luxation is. Especially in smaller dogs, grade 1 and many grade 2 instances are frequently left alone while being kept an eye out for emerging issues. Grade 3 and grade 4 instances typically require surgery to keep the dog comfortable and lessen the likelihood of future orthopedic issues.
In order to keep the patella in place during dog knee surgery for a dislocation, the soft tissues on the side opposite the luxation are typically tightened. To assist in keeping the kneecap on its optimal course, the femoral groove may be deepened. To realign important muscles and give the leg a more typical anatomy, the tibial crest may be repositioned. Osteoarthritis is a common later-life ailment in dogs with kneecap issues.
Bracing can be used to stabilize the knee, with a LP, to give shock absorption, and to help prevent a CCL tear. Most dogs with a luxating patella will also get a concurrent Cruciate ligament tear, so it is important to do something to prevent this. Physical therapy is also something that is recommended, to help strengthen the surrounding muscles, and help with a grade 2 or less.
The majority of cruciate ligament issues are caused by trauma, however, they can also be degenerative. It can be an acute injury brought on by the dog turning too tightly while moving quickly, for instance, or it might be a low-grade, ongoing issue that has gotten worse over time (cruciate disease). Tears might be either partial or full, but this can’t be diagnosed without an MRI. Your veterinarian may tell you it is a Full tear, but without sound imaging, that is impossible to fully diagnose.
Your dog has two cruciate ligaments: the caudal, which is in charge of the joint’s forward stability, and the cranial (rear stability). These ligaments “cruciate” or cross over the knee joint between the top of the tibia and the bottom of the femur. They allow for extension and flexion while also giving the knee joint stability. Movement from side to side is restricted.
When dogs are active—running, making sudden turns, stepping in holes while running, and other such activities—they frequently damage their ligaments. However, something as easy as an obese Beagle leaping from the couch and landing awkwardly might tear a ligament. Environmental elements like lifestyle choices and weight are risk factors for cruciate issues, as well as spaying and neutering too soon (see our blog on spaying and neutering too early on the Posh website)
The ligament fibers are stretched and torn with sudden, intense pressure. The majority of dogs will become suddenly three-legged lame and hold up the injured leg. The joint could become painful, swollen, and inflamed. Less obvious symptoms of a chronic partial tear may resemble arthritis. After a period of inactivity, your dog can become particularly stiff and/or have intermittent lameness.
Large, muscular breeds of dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls, are most susceptible to cruciate ligament tears.
Due of the prevalence of this injury in laboratories, Research Laboratory offers a genetic test to check for cruciate issue susceptibility. Though not definite, a dog with a positive result on this genetic test is thought to be at a higher risk of cruciate rupture: roughly 62% genetics plus 38% environment. Owners should exercise frequent physical therapy and be more watchful to avoid their dogs from gaining weight.
The knee injury in your dog will probably be identified by your veterinarian after a physical examination. An obvious sign of a tear is a lax (loose) joint, or drawer test. Additional diagnostic procedures may include radiographs, to check for arthritic changes and/or arthroscopy, a surgical procedure that enables the veterinarian to examine the menisci, two cartilage discs that cushion the knee joint, in the joint.
Small dogs may benefit from wearing a brace that is specially made for them, as they tend to recover well with conservative management. Sometimes they may require extracapsular repair surgery, which involves placing a suture to stabilize the joint until scar tissue takes over. This procedure should never be done on dogs over 40lbs.
Some veterinarians may recommend very invasive surgery, that involves relocating and cutting bones in the joint. This is currently the only surgical option for large breed dogs, and should be researched with caution. The tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and the advancement of the tibial tuberosity are two of these treatments (TTA). (We recommend to try others means before doing surgery, but this is an option if you choose it.)
If you decide on conservative therapy combined with a Posh Dog Knee Brace, consider having our custom brace created, to give your dog the best chance of recovering. Regardless of size, a brace could be the best solution for dogs who are not suitable candidates for surgery, or if you prefer a conservative approach.
Regardless of the course of action you and your veterinarian determine is best for your dog, aftercare is crucial. Careful guidelines must be adhered to exactly as prescribed by your veterinarian. We include such a program with our custom Posh Brace.
A program of walks that gradually increase in distance and difficulty will be part of the rehabilitation, as will other workouts like an underwater treadmill. It might be suggested to use laser and pulsed electro-magnetic field (PEMF) therapy. It may be advised to use joint supplements to maintain his joints and delay the onset of arthritis. Unfortunately, 40–60% of dogs that rupture one cruciate will also eventually damage the other if nothing is done. This % will go up after surgery, by a significant amount, and decrease with custom bracing.
The likelihood of an injury and a full recovery might be influenced by your dog’s general health. Maintain your dog’s ideal weight. Look into an exercise plan to help him build his core muscles, as well as balances drills like wobble board or peanut work. Regarding your dog’s conformation is reasonable. To further reduce the chance of damage, you can think about conducting scent work or rally with your dog instead of agility or fly ball. If you dog already has 1 injured knee, or a knee that has had surgery, consider also bracing the good leg, in order to prevent overcompensation on the other side.
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