Don’t let a bum knee bum out your pet (Part II)

posted on September 03, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The most common injury to a dog’s knee is an ACL tear, which stands for anterior cruciate ligament tear.  In dogs, the more correct term is cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture, CCLR.  This is simply because of the fact that dogs walk on all fours instead of upright, but the ligament is the same and serves the same function regardless of what it is called.

The ACL attaches at the rear of the femur, and crosses to the front of the knee to attach to the front of the tibia.  It’s function is to prevent abnormal forward movement of the tibia relative to the knee joint.  When torn, a veterinarian may be able to demonstrate this forward movement, called a drawer sign upon physical examination.

A pet that has torn it’s ACL may suddenly become non weight bearing lame on a rear leg, or may only toe touch with that leg.  If left alone, the pet seems to improve in a week or two, but this is simply because the body starts to make changes to the knee joint to try to stabilize it.  There are usually significant arthritic changes that occur if the torn ligament is not repaired.  In addition, dogs that tear one ligament are more likely to tear the other one, so repairing the first tear to prevent additional strain on the non-torn ligament is recommended.

There are a number of different methods to repair a torn ACL.  The choice is based on the pet’s age, activity level, degree of arthritis, size, and other factors.  Options for repair include:

  • Extracapsular repair
  • TPLO, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy
  • TTA, or tibial tuberosity advancement

After surgery, anti-inflammatory pain medications or NSAIDs are often used.  Long term use of glucosamine and chondroitin are often recommended.  Rehabilitation exercises and restrictions of activity may be recommended as well.  Keeping the pet at a lean weight helps decrease strain on the joints.

If your pet has injured their knee, a veterinarian visit is in order.  X-rays or radiographs may be recommended, and if a torn ACL is diagnosed, a discussion with the specialty surgeon and your pet’s lifestyle will determine which type of surgery will be recommended.  Together we can help your pet regain as much function as possible and decrease the likelihood of arthritis in the future.  Call us today to discuss the options available to your pet!

Don’t let a bum knee bum out your pet (Part I)

posted on August 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

In this first of two articles about knee injuries and issues, we will be talking about medial luxating patellas (MPLs), or in less medical speak, knee caps that pop out of place.  This condition can be very common in smaller breed dogs, but can also occur in other pets and larger dogs.

Often as a pet owner, the first sign of an issue that you may notice is that a pet may be running around and suddenly skips a step or starts running with only 3 legs, then a few steps later they may be back to running around like normal.  Other times you don’t even notice and issue and the vet is the first to identify the problem.  In severe cases, the knee cap may luxate out of position and remain out, causing discomfort and a lasting limp which may cause you to seek medical attention.

The knee cap, or patella, usually sits in a groove on thigh bone or femur.  In some dogs, this groove is not deep enough, and the forces of moving the leg cause the ligaments and patella to move out of the groove.  About half of the dogs that have one leg affected will have both legs affected.  There are 4 grades of MPLs based on their severity.

  • Grade 1 means that the kneecap can be moved out of place on examination but it goes back into its regular position.
  • Grade 2 means that the kneecap can be moved out of place on examination, and then remains out of place.
  • Grade 3 means that the kneecap is out of place all the time but can be moved back into place, but doesn’t usually stay there.
  • Grade 4 means that the kneecap is out of place all the time and cannot be put back into place.

Depending on the signs, symptoms, and grade, surgery may be recommended.  Grade 3 and 4 usually require surgery, and it may be recommended for grade 2 as well since a knee cap that stays out of place can lead to arthritis, bone deformities, and ligaments that do not function properly which causes a limp or discomfort.  A discussion with the veterinarian and radiographs or x-rays may be beneficial to determine if surgery is the right option for your pet.  Even if surgery is not recommended, short or long term anti-inflammatory pain medication may be prescribed.

If surgery is elected, there are a number of surgical techniques that are used to repair the problem.  Often the groove on the femur is deepened.  The joint capsule may be tightened to provide more stability.  The attachment point of the patellar tendon may be moved to provide proper alignment.  Other techniques may be utilized depending on the case and surgeon’s preference.  We here at Heritage Animal Hospital have an orthopedic surgeon come in to perform the procedure.  More information can be found here.

If your pet seems to have a bum knee, give us a call and we can help find a proper diagnosis as well as come up with a treatment plan that works for your pet.  Stay tuned for next month’s article about ACL injuries to learn about other knee issues.

Posted in: Canine Health

Autumn Aches and Pains

posted on October 15, 2012 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As colder weather sets in, our pets may feel it in their joints too.  According to the Arthritis Foundation 1 in 5 dogs in the United States is estimated to have arthritis.

So what is arthritis?  Arthritis is a chronic, degenerative disease of the joints which occurs when the cartilage of the joint is damaged by trauma or injury, wear and tear, or congenital abnormalities such as hip dysplasia.

Signs that your pet may be suffering from arthritis include:

  • Reluctance to take walks of usual length
  • Decreased interest in play
  • Stiffness, which may disappear as pet “warms up”
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, getting into the vehicle, or jumping on the bed or other furniture
  • Difficulty rising from rest
  • Limping or abnormal gait or posture
  • Licking a single joint
  • Acting withdrawn and spending less time with the family
  • Soreness to touch, which can in some instances lead to aggression
  • Decreased range of motion
  • “Slowing down”

If your pet is exhibiting any of the above signs, they may be suffering from arthritis.  While there is not a cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options aimed at preventing the disease from progressing and minimizing the impact of the changes that have already occurred.  In other words, we want to help keep your pet comfortable and acting like their younger self!

Treatment options may include things such as:

  • Weight reduction
  • Controlled exercise
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Physical therapy
  • Veterinary therapeutic diets
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medications
  • Joint injections
  • Acupuncture and massage therapy
  • Surgical options

Your pet does not have to live with the pain of arthritis, so give us a call today!

Posted in: Uncategorized