What’s Causing My Dog’s Lameness??

It’s all too common, a dog suddenly comes back from the park limping, or even holding up the hind leg after chasing a Frisbee, stepping into holes, or from strenuous exercise following a long winter of inactivity. More often than not you will end up seeing your veterinarian.

Injuries to the CCL of the stifle (knee) are common in dogs. These injuries may be sudden or may develop slowly over months with gradual breakdown of the ligament or may be brought on by some sudden traumatic event. This type of injury may cause other damage in the joint area with the dog refusing to bear weight on it.

While some problems may occur as the result of injury, 75% of cases are thought to be due to genetic predisposition or degeneration in the stifle. Obesity is a huge factor! Some breeds like the Labrador retriever, Golden Retriever, Rott-weiler and small dogs like Westies are frequenly seen with this type of injury.

ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament; in proper veterinary terminology this liga-ment is the Cranial Cruciate Ligament, or CCL. We often hear of ACL injuries occur-ring in football players, but this happens in dogs and cats too. In fact, cruciate ruptures are the most common orthopedic injury seen in veterinary medicine.

Due to the degenerative nature of cruci-ate disease, between 30-40% of dogs will go on to eventually injure the other knee. This is due to increased weight bearing on the ‘good’ knee. The majority of pets need to have surgical correction to provide return to normal function of the leg.

Numerous surgical techniques have been developed over the past 30 years. The most recently developed techniques for restoring normal limb use involve tibial osteotomy (bone cutting).The osteotomy techniques alter the weight bearing forces acting at the stifle. Instead of repairing the CCL, these techniques focus on eliminating the need for the CCL. Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) and tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) are the two most commonly performed procedures.

TTA is a surgical treatment already commonly performed in Europe (with over 18,000 cases performed),and is gain-ing popularity in the U.S. The long term prognosis for excellent limb use following TTA is com-parable to TPLO.TTA is far less invasive, results in less swelling and pain following surgery.

Strict rest is required following surgery to allow for proper healing of the tibia. Initially, there should be no running, jumping, or playing. After the first month of strict rest, a gradual introduction of controlled activity is performed until 3 months following surgery. Physical therapy is also performed to fasten healing. Post surgery, x-rays are taken to assess healing of the tibia. After the healing is complete, it is rare for problems to develop.

These types of surgical procedures are performed by board certified veterinary surgeons. Ask your veterinarian for a referral. To learn more about these specific orthopedic procedures visit

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