Surgery Service for Dogs

Our clinic offers a wide variety of surgical services. If you have any questions please give us a call at 506-388-8880.

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What is a cruciate ligament?

A cruciate ligament is a ligament in the knee joint. There are two cruciate ligaments, the anterior and posterior. The anterior cruciate ligament is the one that we commonly see ruptures. You may have heard of athletes tearing their ACLs; that is the anterior cruciate ligament! Its job is to prevent the tibia (bone below the knee joint) from slipping out from under the femur (bone above the knee joint). Ruptured cruciate ligaments are the most common knee injury in dogs.

How does the cruciate ligament rupture?

Cruciate ruptures are usually seen in larger breed dogs. In young, healthy dogs, cruciate’s usually rupture from taking a bad step and injuring the knee, while running or playing rough. In older or overweight dogs, the cruciate ligament may already be weakened and could partially tear or stretch. Depending on how severe it is, you may not see any signs that your dog has an injury until the ligament ruptures completely. It is common for larger, overweight dogs with one ruptured cruciate to rupture the other hind leg’s cruciate within a year.

How is a ruptured cruciate ligament diagnosed?

Symptoms to look for with a ruptured cruciate ligament include sudden lameness or not bearing any weight on a hind leg. If some time has passed since the tear, the knee will be swollen and arthritic. A torn cruciate can often be diagnosed by manual manipulation. The most common manual test we check for cruciate ruptures is looking for what is called a “drawer sign.” This is achieved by the veterinarian stabilizing the bone above the knee joint (femur) and moving the bone below the knee joint (tibia). If the tibia is able to move forward past the femur, that is showing a drawer sign and that means the cruciate ligament is ruptured. Another manual test the veterinarian can perform is called a “tibial compression test.” Again, the doctor stabilizes the femur, but this time, they flex the ankle. If the tibia moves forward, that confirms a ruptured cruciate ligament. Sometimes, sedation and/or x-rays are required to diagnose a cruciate rupture.

How do you surgically repair a ruptured cruciate ligament?

There are four different surgical techniques to repair a ruptured cruciate ligament. The technique Dr. Dwan uses is called “Extracapsular Repair.” This is the quickest surgical option and is currently the most favoured technique. In this surgery, the veterinarian opens the knee joint and removes the torn ligament. He then drills a hole in the tibia and passes a large, strong suture in the ligament’s place to tighten the joint and take over the cruciate’s job. Two months to a year after surgery, the suture will break and the dog’s own tissue that healed over it will hold the knee in place. The dogs stay in the hospital overnight and are usually able to go home the next afternoon.

What is the recovery like after surgery?

Recovery from this surgery can take up to two months for the knee to be back to normal. Your dog may hold their leg up for up to two weeks after surgery. Exercise restriction is vital for eight weeks after surgery. This means no running and always being on a leash when outside. The veterinarian will go over full recovery instructions with you when you pick your dog up after their stay with us, including ice, heat therapy and passive range of motion exercises for you to do with your dog at home.

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