ACL injuries: Not just for football players
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
With the beginning of football season, the term “ACL injury” is unfortunately too often heard. Green Bay’s own Jordy Nelson has sustained this season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Many dogs are athletes as well, and the ACL/CCL injury is one of the more common knee injuries diagnosed at veterinary practices. With this ligament failure, the knee shifts with each step, thus creating pain, inflammation, and progressive arthritis. Some dogs will present with a sudden onset of pain and holding up the leg during physical exercise or an event such as jumping up into the car. Others, however, may present with a gradual onset of rear limb lameness.
Owners are given options for treatment of this condition. For the very small pet, this may be anti-inflammatory medical management and activity restriction. For the larger dogs, surgical stabilization is recommended for the best function and to slow the progression of arthritis in that knee.
A discussion with your veterinarian of the mechanical benefits and various costs of these procedures helps in this decision. Overall health status, age, activity level, body condition score, and financial constraint are all considered. The higher costing, more complex procedures are usually referred to a university or specialty surgical center. In all of these cases, though, some means of stabilization soon after the injury is important to prevent early arthritic change and reduce stress on the opposite knee.
In some dogs this may not be a truly athletic injury but a failure of a weakened or possibly inherited smaller than normal ligament. Obesity predisposes dogs to ACL failure. Sixty percent of these dogs with an injury have the opposite knee fail within three years of the first.
Post operative management always recommends weight reduction as needed, activity restriction, and a glucosamine supplement. A physical therapy program may also be recommended along with laser therapy and a course of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These medications may be needed long-term with some pets and with proper monitoring may be safely used.
There is no such thing as “dog aspirin.” Long-term use in dogs has a high risk of stomach ulceration. There are much lower risk, more effective veterinary labeled products for long-term management.
Any lameness should be evaluated by your veterinarian right away. Lyme disease can mimic ACL failure and proceed to severe illness if not treated promptly. Dogs do get their share of sprains and strains too that may just require discomfort and anti-inflammatory medications along with activity restriction. It is best to know for sure.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.