An X-ray of a dog

In the veterinary world we are all-too-familiar with cruciate ligament disease in pets. It is a very common diagnosis that we deal with on an almost daily basis. 

We know, however, that CCL disease and the resulting TPLO surgery are not things that our pet parents necessarily know about. The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center are all about helping to educate our clients and hope that you will find value in learning about this common condition. 

What is Cruciate Disease?

When we diagnose cruciate ligament rupture in a pet, many questions arise almost immediately.

What is a cruciate ligament?
The cranial cruciate ligament is a ligament within the knee, or stifle. Its job is to help hold the upper thigh bone, called the femur, in line with the lower leg bone (the tibia). Because of the way a dog moves on four legs, it is constantly called upon to apply the brakes to the femur sliding forward off the front of the tibia. It is very similar to the ACL in our own knee joint.

How does the doctor know that this is the problem?
When a pet injures the CCL, the result is a very painful rear limb lameness. The pet will often be toe-touching and sit with the leg pointed out instead of folded under. Pets with a CCL rupture will also have a characteristic “cranial drawer sign” in which the veterinarian can create an abnormal forward sliding motion of the femur off of the tibia. X-rays (radiographs) can also be helpful. 

How did this happen?
In most cases no one is to blame for a CCL rupture. The stress on this ligament predisposes it to wear and tear over time. Other factors such as obesity, genetics, and variances in confirmation also likely lead to rupture.  In more than half of pets with a CCL rupture, the same thing will occur in the opposite limb at some point. 

Will it heal?
As a general rule, ligaments are terrible at healing themselves. In most situations intervention is needed to limit arthritis development and chronic pain. For the vast majority of pets, this means surgery. 

All About TPLO Surgery

It is never fun to think about your pet having surgery. Knowing a little more about it can help, though. 

What are my options?
There are actually several options for helping a pet with a cruciate ligament tear. Some have fallen out of favor over the years, and some are better for specific situations. Procedures like a tightrope or total tibial advancement (TTA) might be recommended, but in general a TPLO surgery is considered the standard. For pets whom surgery is not a good option rehabilitation therapy and or custom braces may also be helpful.

What is TPLO surgery?
Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO, is an orthopedic surgery in which a cut is made in the top of the tibia. This bone piece is then put back in place at a different angle that creates stability for the femur on top of the tibia. It is plated in place and left to heal in location. During the procedure torn ligament and damaged meniscus or cartilage may also be removed. TPLO surgery is very common, but due to its intricate nature it is typically advisable to have it completed by a board-certified veterinary surgeon. 

How long will it take for my pet to recover?
Because the veterinary surgeon is strategically “breaking” your pet’s leg and plating it back together, post operative care for TPLO surgery is much like a fracture. Most pets are able to bear weight when they leave the hospital, but some restrictions will likely be in place for about 12 weeks. 

What can I do to help?When it comes to TPLO surgery, there is so much that you can do as a pet owner to help your pet recover. Participating in rehabilitation therapy recommendations as well as being vigilant about pain management can help. Appropriate management of your pet’s weight is another key factor in success. 

Helping Pets Heal

Cruciate ligament disease and TPLO surgery are common things that we talk about, and we are always available to answer any other questions or concerns you might have.  Helping pets heal is what we are all about, and we are happy to aid in that in whatever way possible.