Apr 21, 2010

Sudden Pain and Lameness? Your Dog May Have a Ruptured ACL

 One of the most common injuries a dog can get is a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  The tearing of the ligament happens in healthy athletic dogs as well as overweight dogs when they are running and suddenly change direction.  The ACL and the posterior cruciate ligament are two ligaments that cross each other as one travels from the front to the back of the knee joint, and the other travels from the back to the front. What does the ACL do?  This ligament is a fibrous band of tissue that attaches your dog’s femur with their tibia, making the knee joint a hinge. 

What are the signs of a torn cruciate?  The joint becomes unstable, causing pain and usually a non-weight bearing lameness.  The cruciate ligament can also be partially torn, which can make it weaker than normal and lameness may be less severe or intermittent.  However, with time, the ligament nearly always tears completely.  Long term use of an unstable joint like the knee is a recipe for arthritis.  When a cruciate is completely torn, surgery followed by a rehabilitation program is usually prescribed.  Many surgeons are collecting a fat sample during the knee stabilization surgery and then injecting both knees with stem cells.  They feel that the stem cells help reduce the pain and speed up the healing process.  The non-injured knee is also treated since many dogs will tear their other cruciate in the future.  The uninjured knee will also be taking on more weight as the knee that has had surgery heals. For previous posts on cruciates see my blog on Feb 10, 2010.
(photo: Jasmine, stem cell patient and advocate)
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  1. jana Said,

    Yep, we know all about cruciate injuries. Jasmine is loving her stem cells.

    A lot information about ACL injuries, their prevention, coping with the post-op, and Jasmine, on my blog.

  2. Todd Said,

    What if anything have you seen as far as using the stem cell treatment when there are sings of the ACL being affected but no noticable tear has occurred. Is this treatment seen as an option to avoid further injury in an active copetitive performance dog?

  3. Todd Said,

    I’ve read some literature that Canine Degenerative Cruciate Rupture may have its source in some type of infection or bacteriological influences. How long after administering a med like Doxycycline (sp?) do you need to wait to draw fat cells if that is determined to be a course of action?

  4. Bob Said,

    Thanks Todd. The important point in treating infected joints is to assure the infection is treated first. Stem cells do not directly treat infections and the infection treatment with antibiotics should be the first course of action. An infected joint is quite serious and needs immediate attention. Infected joints are usually very painful and swollen and happen quickly. If your dog has immediate and unexpected pain in one or more joints, that is cause for an immediate visit to your veterinarian to diagnose the problem. Immediate and unexpected pain can come from infections, trauma, rupture of a ligament like the cruciate, and other conditions. As to when stem cells can be used after an infection, it is only important that the active infection is cleared first. Then stem cells can be used to help repair the damage in the joint and get it back to a healing state. The time since the last antibiotic is not so important as is the clearing of the infection. Hope that helps.

  5. Bob Said,

    Another great question Todd. The key is the careful and complete diagnosis. In cruciate ligament tears, it is difficult to be completely sure of the extent of the tear without an MRI or looking into the joint with a scope (arthroscopy). If the clinical diagnosis is that there is either an old tear (likely scar tissue and arthritis now) or a minor tear, then stem cell use might be indicated to treat both the arthritis that has probably developed or the partial tear. The preventative aspect will be a reduction in the progression of the arthritis. Also important that after the diagnosis is made, that a solid plan of rehabilitation is created and followed, especially for a competitive dog.

  6. Deborah Said,

    My 5 yr old lab was diagnosed with OCD at approx. 6 mos. We had surgery but now he is experiencing pain again. We are considering stem cell therapy but I have not seen any treatments described for the hock joint. Is there any case history involving the hock joint and stem cell therapy?

  7. Bob Said,

    Hi Deborah. Sorry to hear about the pain that your buddy is experiencing. We try to collect as much information about the conditions and outcomes as we can, but not everyone sends us data. We have records for specific hock treatments on 40 dogs in the last two years. Of those, 8 responded to the surveys that we sent. Of those responding, 4 dogs showed significant improvement and 4 showed mild improvement. We do not have specific info on prior surgery or diagnosis of OCD, so hard to relate exactly to your lab. If the pain is coming from arthritis secondary to the prior OCD and/or surgery, I believe that stem cells might be a good option to consider. Please discuss with your regular veterinarian and feel free to have them contact one of our veterinarians at 858-748-2004 to further discuss whether this is appropriate. Hope that helps. Bob

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