When a pet begins to limp suddenly on a back leg, there are a few different things that could be causing the problem. The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital have the expertise, tools, and resources to make an accurate diagnosis for your pet so that we can move forward with the right treatment.

One of the most common causes of acute hindlimb lameness is rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee, called a CCL rupture. This is analogous to an ACL rupture in humans. The treatment for this condition is almost always surgical, and while there are several procedures that can be performed, the gold standard option for most pets is TPLO surgery. 

More About the CCL

A dog’s knee, also called the stifle, is definitely a workhorse. Because of the way that a four-legged animal like a dog bears weight, there is constant need for the cranial cruciate ligament inside the knee joint to help keep the top bone (femur) from thrusting forward off the front of the lower bone (tibia). You might think of the cruciate ligament as a parking brake.

Rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament can occur in a few different ways. In people the ACL is most often damaged due to sudden trauma such as a skiing accident or a bad football play. While this can happen in dogs, it is less likely. 

Most often in dogs, CCL rupture occurs after chronic, long term wear and tear during repeated hyperextension of the stifle, internal rotation, and degeneration over time. Being obese also increases the risk of a tear.

It is likely that genetics and overall conformational stresses are part of the reason CCL ruptures occur in the dog. Because of this, if a pet suffers from a rupture in one hind leg, there is a greater than 50% chance that the other knee will be affected at some point as well. 

TPLO Surgery

When a pet suffers from a CCL rupture, the result is a very severe lameness that is often non-weight bearing. This is because with each step taken, the femur is sliding off the front of the tibia, resulting in significant pain. Obviously this isn’t any way for our patients to function.

When a CCL injury has been diagnosed in a pet, surgery is often indicated. Several types of surgeries exist, all with the intention of restoring stability and function to the stifle joint. 

TPLO surgery is a very commonly performed surgery and considered to be the best option for most pets. That said, because of its more complicated nature it is a surgery best performed by a board certified veterinary surgeon.

During a TPLO surgery, a curved cut called an osteotomy is made in the top of the tibia. This section of bone is then rotated and plated in place to create angle that helps to keep the joint more stable. 

After surgery, the bone must heal back in place, resulting in the need for activity restriction. Most pets are able to bear weight immediately after surgery but will be on some form of restriction for about 12 weeks. 

What’s Best for Your Pet

Should your pet become injured, our compassionate veterinary staff are here to help you make the best choices possible. We will offer the best guidance for:

  • Pain management 
  • Joint support through medications, laser therapy, and other modalities
  • Surgical options
  • Post-operative support such as rehabilitation therapy
  • Weight management

It is our goal to provide the best care and quality for your animal family, and we are dedicated to achieving that. 

If you have questions or concerns about CCL disease or the TPLO surgery, please call us today.  We are here for you through every step of your pet’s journey, no matter where that takes us.