CANINE HEALTH // How To Minimise, Spot And Treat Cruciate Ligament Damage In Dogs
You may have heard us humans talk about an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), right? Anyone who watches sport would have seen many a player – especially in all codes of footy – be stretchered off with an ACL injury. It’s debilitating and painful and can take a lot of time and attention to recover fully from it.
Well, dogs have the same ligament but it is known as a CrCL (Cranial Cruciate Ligament). They can damage that too, which can be super-painful for them.
But unlike humans, where we tend to injure our ACL thanks to some form of sport, dancing, running or pretending we’re 21 again, a cruciate ligament in a dog can degenerate over time which then ruptures because it has weakened bit by bit. As a result, normal, day-to-day activities like jumping off a couch too quickly and landing awkwardly before mum sees – naughty doggo!! - can lead to damage.
And sadly, it seems to be becoming a more common issue for our canine friends. Local vets Charlie Carter and Chris Watson from Southern Highlands Veterinary Centre have certainly noticed an increase in dogs presenting with painful CrCL issues and so have made it their mission to help us understand how to help prevent them and how to spot the painful signs.
Certain breeds are susceptible
“While we can’t pinpoint a specific cause of CrCL injury, it seems genetics is at play a bit here,’ says Chris.
Some breeds such as Labradors, Rottweilers, Boxers, Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands are predisposed to injury or ligament damage.
“You would think it would be related to the size of the breed but that’s not necessarily always the case as smaller breeds like the West Highland Terrier is also susceptible,” Chris says.
The obesity epidemic has spread to the canine world
We’ve all heard about the human obesity epidemic, but it seems some of our less healthy habits have been passed on to our fur babies too.
“We see a lot of dogs presenting to the clinic with ligament damage, and many of them are overweight,” Charlie points out.
"It’s really important to know what a healthy weight is for your dog. We can help with that. Just bring them in for a check-up and we’ll do a weigh-in and take it from there.”
Charlie also suggests regular exercise, portion control - avoid leaving food out all the time as dogs are not great at self-regulating themselves around food - and minimising treats. Lots of little treats can add up to a whole lot of weight gain. Hmmmmm….good advice for us humans, too!
“Another thing to be aware of is that ligament damage can occur in dogs that are exercised every now and then. Random bursts of exercise puts pressure on the knee joints and the ligaments, so make sure regular exercise suitable for the age and size of the dog is scheduled,” Charlie adds.
Symptoms are easy to spot
Limping is the most common symptom to look out for, especially during or after exercise. If the damage has progressed in both knees, your dog may have difficulty getting up.
“If you see your dog limping, it’s best to get it checked out as soon as you can before the ligament degenerates any further. Most of the time we can diagnose ligament damage from a simple examination, or if we need to, we’ll conduct an examination under sedation which may include x-rays,” says Charlie.
Many dogs are treated with success
The sooner a dog is diagnosed with a CrCL injury or damage, the better chance of recovery they will have.
“Most dogs will require surgery,” Chris says.
Southern Highlands Veterinary Centre have the equipment, expertise and skillset on site required for this sort of surgery and treatment. This can save you a trip up or down the Hume.
“We can perform advanced techniques such as TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) and TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) as well as the more traditional nylon implant surgeries to improve joint function. TTA is when we shift the geometry of the knee joint which means the CrCL is no longer necessary to maintain stability."
Recovery takes time but the team have had plenty of good results, giving lots of local doggos a new lease of life!
“Of course, prevention is always better than cure,” says Charlie.
“So keeping your dog fit and healthy will definitely help. But as we’ve said before, some breeds are just susceptible to this sort of ligament damage and injury, so if you see your dog limping, the sooner you bring him or her in, the better chance they have for recovery.”
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