Sometimes all it takes is just a moment - just even a split of the moment and everything changes. That’s what happened to buddy’s dog Zeus, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever. Zeus is a super healthy and athletic dog. My friend has always joked on how I am an useless friend because his dog is so healthy, and that he is better off looking for a plumber friend. Then, one slip on a hike and Zeus is debilitated. How devastating, Zeus has severely injured his left knee. The most common traumatic injury in dogs involves the knee and that is a rupture of the Anterior Cranial Cruciate ligament (ACL).
The knee joint is composed of three bones; the Femur (the long bone extending down from the hip), the Tibia (the bone between the knee and ankle), and the Patella (the kneecap). These three bones are held together by elastic bands of tissues called ligaments. Those ligaments are tough tissues that strongly hold the joint together but allow movement of the joint. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is the ligament that is most prone to damages. The ligament can get damaged by twisting of the leg in a motion that puts too much tension on the ligament. The most common reasons for damaging the ligament are slipping on a slippery surfaces such as ice, or a sudden turn while running. The ligament can tear completely or partially. When the ligament is torn there is excess of movement in the knee joint that leads to Arthritis (inflammation of the joint). Large breed dogs are more prone to ACL rupture, especially Labradors and Rottweilers, but the condition may occur in any dog.
ACL rupture is manifested by a sudden lameness on one of the back legs. The dog usually will not bear weight on the leg. The lameness might be intermittent and more prominent after physical activity. It is very important to treat the condition as early as possible. Because the dog favours his injured leg, he will then bear all the weight on his sturdy leg which may lead to the rapture of the ACL in this leg as well.
The diagnosis of ACL rupture is done by an exam conducted by veterinarians that is called “Drawer maneuver”. The Veterinarian will place the dog on his side, hold both of his Femur and Tibia and check the amount of movement in the joint. In a healthy joint there is minimal movement - excess of movement suggests ACL rupture. This test is done better when the dog is under deep sedation, to allow relaxation of the muscles and more accurate results. Performing x-rays of the joint are also recommended, to assess the severity of the arthritis in the joint.
The treatment of ACL rupture depends on the severity of the condition. A complete rupture of the ligament usually requires corrective surgery. If the rapture is partial there is a chance that very restricted activity for 8-12 weeks, along with anti-inflammatory medication may lead to healing of the ligament. Anti-inflammatory medications are very essential in controlling the severity of the arthritis caused by the condition. Do not use human products such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen as they are toxic to dogs. Dogs should be treated with a veterinary product that is safer for them. If the dog is overweight I recommend changing his diet to a reduced calorie diet. Losing weight takes off the extra load on the joint. Food additives such as Glucosamine, and Chondroitin support the joints and are also recommended.
The prognosis depends on the severity and the duration of the condition and early intervention can lead to good prognosis. If you notice lameness in your pet, take him to be checked by your vet.
Read more Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.
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