Interview with Dr. Danielle Dugat
The most common cause of sudden hind limb lameness in dogs is due to tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament in the knee.
In people, the similar anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, usually tears during hyperextension, like during sports, but with dogs it is more of a degenerative process where eventually the ligament breaks down.
With a torn ligament, the knee becomes painful and unstable. The instability leads to further damage to the joint, and painful arthritis develops. Your veterinarian can diagnose a torn cranial cruciate ligament by examination of the knee.
There are two surgical repairs that are offered at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences to stabilize the knee joint – a lateral suture stabilization of the joint capsule and a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy. These procedures are not aimed at reconstructing the ligament itself, but stabilizing the excessive movement that occurs in the knee as a result of the tear.
Early stabilization will help reduce the amount of arthritis that develops secondarily in the knee joint. Talk with your veterinarian to determine the best plan for your pet.