Anterior cruciate liagment (ACL) tears are one of the most common injuries that create rear leg lameness in the dog. They cause pain and lameness. The degree of lameness ranges from an obvious limp to complete refusal to bear weight on the injuried leg. Over time, many of these dogs lose muscle mass which progresses to complete disuse of the leg. Others will use the leg after awhile, but later develop severe painful osteo-arthritis of the knee.Traditionally, treatment for an ACL injury involves surgery. There are several different surgical techniques with varying degrees of sucess. Currently, the most common corrective surgery is tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). This major surgery involves cutting the tibial bone and a special plate is applied to change the joint angle and resolve the pain and discomfort. The surgery is considered nearly 98% successful and the gold standard of treatment for an ACL. The disadvantage of the surgery is the aggressive nature of cutting the bone, which leaves patients very immobile for several weeks. Manydogs require a sling to assist their movement during the healing stage.
Many veterinarians will perform less aggressive procedures that perform well initially. The end result of all these procedures is advanced osteoarthritis as the dog ages. Therefore, we do not perform or recommend them anymore.