Dogs also have bad knees |

Dogs also have bad knees

Nadine Lober

Vail, CO Colorado

The anterior or cranial cruciate ligament, or ACL, in dogs ” located in the knee joint ” normally prevents forward movement and rotation of the shin bone (tibia) in relation to the femur (thigh bone).

This is one way the knee is stabilized and excessive trauma of a weakened ligament in the knee is the most frequent cause of an ACL rupture or tear.

The trauma can be caused by numerous activities: jumping up to catch a ball or Frisbee and landing on the hind legs at an abnormal angle; running on uneven ground; or getting hit in the hind legs. An abnormal stance in certain dogs, such as rottweilers and Dobermans, may predispose the ligament to stress and rupture.

Once the ligament is torn, the knee joint becomes unstable and this may lead to cartilage injury, build up of joint fluid build and thickening of the joint lining. One symptom of an ACL tear is lameness of the hind legs, which lasts about 72 hours and then gradually improves over several weeks.

After six weeks, the knee joint will degenerate and the lameness will return and worse. The most reliable diagnosis of an ACL rupture is looseness in the knee joint when moving the lower and upper part of the leg in opposite directions. Of course, it is a lot harder for veterinarians to have your patients lay totally still while doing the exam.

Treatment depends on the size of the animal. In very small dogs and in cats, the joint can be repaired by restricting exercise. Larger pets often require surgery.

Surgical repair is usually successful the dog is well cared for after the operation. Exercise should be limited for a month after surgery, followed walks on leashes and physical therapy for the next two to three months.

It also is important that overweight dogs recovering from knee surgery lose weight to prevent further degeneration of the joint. Acupuncture can help minimize pain and swelling.

If there are no complications during recovery, you should have a dog that can be as active as he wants. Note that about 60 percent of the time the ACL in the other knee will tear and need the same attention.

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