How to Diagnose a Dog Knee Injury

Let me guess, your dog has likely lost a bit of mobility, either favoring a limb, or whimpering at the slightest movement of its leg?

As a previous owner of highly energetic boxers of the same litter, I had two different moments of terror when I saw both dogs limping around with a hind leg in the air.

While I didn’t know much about CCL ruptures, technically known as the cranial cruciate ligament, and how costly and debilitating such injuries are for dogs, I certainly didn’t want to dismiss their abnormal behavior only to cause greater severity of injury.

Nevertheless, both injuries sustained by both dogs were fortunately not CCL tears or ruptures, but minor bruises that they recovered from after about 3-4 days rest.

Diagnosing CCL ruptures or tears is not exactly a white and black issue, which an expert licensed veterinarian diagnosis is always recommended before entering into TPLO surgery, technically known as Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy.

Torn or Ruptured CCL/ACL Symptoms

Dogs often sustain a minor injury that leads to a torn or fully ruptured CCL due to sudden or excessive activity, weakening the CCL and making movement unbearable over time.

In addition, greater pressure and weight is placed on the non-lame limb, which greatly increases the likelihood of sustaining yet another CCL tear or rupture — almost 6 percent of the cases that a CCL tear in a dog leads to injury of another leg, unfortunately.

The obvious symptoms of a dog tearing and rupturing its CCL are as follows:

  • Doesn’t walk to eat or drink
  • Excessively whimpering
  • Unable to bear weight on injured leg
  • Audible clicking can be heard when walking
  • Leg can be pulled like a drawer
  • Leg sustains swelling and thickening on inside of knee
  • Knee and leg are tender to touch
  • Hind legs appear to be stiff
  • Greatly favors any motion towards harmed leg

What treatment you should seek for your dog

Now that you have a few symptoms to guide you and determine the severity of your dog’s injury, it’s best to make an appointment with your local veterinarian.

It’s very possible that your dog may need to undergo an X-ray or MRI to acutely diagnose or confirm the aforementioned symptoms as your dog sustaining a torn or ruptured CCL.

Do what you can to keep your dog confined and from furthering the degree and severity of sustained injury.

In some cases, you may need to use a dog brace, harness or lift to support transporting your dog around the house, and to and from your vet’s office.

In addition, seek the advice of your veterinarian as it pertains to holistic treatment — supplements for ligament and joint health — should dog knee surgery not be an affordable option.

But do remember that holistic treatment is likely to take months to remedy — greatly limiting your dog’s activity, if any at all, but doesn’t prevent the future tearing and rupturing of ACL on injured or healthy hind legs of your dog.

If cost is not a concern, then dog knee surgery is likely the best option for getting your dog back on the path to sustained mobility and restored health, using one of the following procedures:

  • A lateral suture technique, also known as extra capsular repair
  • Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, also known as TPLO (most recommended)
  • Tibial tuberosity advancement, also known as TTA

Out of the aforementioned surgical options, the lateral suture technique is the least expensive, costing between $1,000 and $1,500. TPLO and TTA costs normally range between $2,000 and $8,000, depending upon the location and expertise of your veterinarian.

All three options have their advantages and disadvantages.  The lateral suture technique simply replaces a torn ligament with a false ligament, while TPLO removes the CCL altogether and TTA greatly changes the knee structure and dynamics.

No matter what you select for your dog — holistic treatment or surgical procedure, the main goal is to properly identify, diagnose, and eliminate the pain while sustaining your dog’s quality of life.

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