Vail Pet Talk column: Orthopedic injuries are common for dogs in the summer
July 22, 2016
Living in Colorado means our dogs will be active outdoors. Unfortunately, this also means that they may be prone to injuries. Have you ever had to have knee surgery or physical therapy to treat an injury? Dogs may require the same thing from time to time. Knowing what your dog is at risk for and knowing what to do if something happens is very important. Let's go over some of the more common injuries.
Cruciate Ligament rupture
A dog has a ligament in its knee similar to a human's anterior cruciate ligament. It's called the cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL. A rupture of this ligament is one of the most common causes of hind-limb lameness in dogs. If a rupture is left untreated, it can lead to quickly progressing osteoarthritis in the knee. CCL rupture can happen in any dog, although it is more common in large-breed dogs. It can be an acute tear due to injury but can also be slowly brought on due to degeneration of the ligament.
If you find your dog lame on a rear leg, it is important for it to be evaluated by a veterinarian who can determine what the problem is and make recommendations for treatment. The most common treatment recommendation for a dog with a ruptured CCL is surgery, and your veterinarian can discuss with you which surgery is best. It is less common that management without surgery is recommended, due to the significant osteoarthritis that will form in the joint, making your dog chronically lame.
Patellar Luxation Risk
Now let's talk about small-breed dogs. One of the more common abnormalities in a small-breed dog also involves the knee, and it's when the kneecap doesn't stay in place, instead dislocating to the inside of the joint. We call this a patellar luxation. Most commonly, the kneecap will move to the inside of the leg (much less commonly to the outside of the leg). This can cause pain and discomfort in a dog, and sometimes, surgical correction is recommended.
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How does this happen? Well, it can be due to trauma but is most commonly due to a genetic abnormality, meaning the dog was born that way. It is important to talk to your veterinarian if your dog has this abnormality — sometimes, medical management will be recommended, and other times, they may recommend surgical intervention.
Lawn Edging Danger
Do you have lawn edging outside your home? This can be the bane of many dog's existence. It is unfortunately common that a dog can lacerate a tendon when out and about playing or running around. Lawn edging is a common culprit, although any sharp surface can cause a laceration. Not only can a dog get a laceration of the skin, but there is risk that the underlying tendons can get transected (cut in half), as well.
If you suspect that a laceration and/or injury may also involve a tendon injury, it is important that your pet see a veterinarian immediately. If treated properly and in a timely manner, the success rate of proper healing is much higher than if you wait to have your animal seen.
Common tendon injuries include the gastrocnemius and superficial digital flexor tendon, both of which make up what we know as the Achilles tendon. The flexor tendons in the front leg are also prone to injury. Recovery from these injuries can be several months, but this is what gives the animal the best chance of gaining function back in that leg.
It is important to remember that you should have your pet seen at the vet for any limping, hopping, skipping or abnormality in its gait. We will always do our best to make the best diagnosis and present you with the best treatment option to get your pet back to its normal self as soon as possible. Enjoy this warm weather.
Liz Foster, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.