Dogged by ACL tears


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 tissue called ligaments, which 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. It 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 surface such as ice, or a sudden turn while running and can tear completely or partially.

When the ligament is torn there is excess 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 essential  to treat the condition due to the fact that when the dog favours his injured leg, he bears excess weight on his sound 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 manoeuvre.

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.

It’s best to do the test when the dog is under deep sedation, to allow relaxation of the muscles and more accurate results. Performing X rays of the joint supports the diagnosis.

The treatment of ACL rupture depends on the severity of the condition. A complete rupture of the ligament requires a corrective surgery. If the rapture is partial, there is a chance that a very restricted activity for 8-12 weeks, along with anti-inflammatory medication may lead to healing of the ligament. 

There are few surgical techniques available to treat torn ACL. One of the newer techniques is called CBLO (CORA Based Leveling Osteotomy) and is proving to be successful.

If the dog is overweight, I recommend a lower-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. Early intervention can lead to better prognosis but with implementing the CBLO technique, I must say that the results are astonishing even in chronic cases.


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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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