If overstretched, a tendon can become inflamed (tendinitis). The sheath surrounding the tendon may also become inflamed (tenosynovitis). Both conditions cause local swelling, heat and lameness. If a tendon is torn, an injury most common in sporting dogs and racing greyhounds, there is severe lameness, pain and loss of use of the limb. The heel (Achilles) tendon is most prone to tearing injuries in greyhounds.
By far the most common ligament injury in dogs is to the anterior cruciate (knee) ligament. Torn knee ligaments, especially the ligaments of both sides of the knee, can occur because of injury but cruciate ligament damage is most likely to occur spontaneously in middle-aged overweight dogs although we see torn cruciates in young Boxers under a year of age. Any sudden onset of hind leg lameness may be caused by cruciate ligament damage.
Diagnosis, Treatment And Prognosis
On physical examination there is a feeling of slackness to the joint. A short anaesthetic may be necessary to relax leg muscles and feel this slackness. A subluxation is visible on x-ray. In all pets, weight control is of paramount importance to treatment. In little pets, under eight kilos, in our experience, weight reduction alone may be all that is necessary. Over the following three months fibrous tissue develops in the joint, effectively repairing it, although the joint no longer has the elasticity provided by a ligament. For larger pets a surgical repair is required. Gary Clayton Jones is probably the most experienced surgeon in the UK, perhaps in all of Europe in knee joint surgery. A torn meniscus, common in Golden Retrievers, is repaired at the same time.
Surgical repair restores good working function to the knee joint usually within two months but it does not prevent future arthritis, especially when the meniscus has been damaged. During the two years following a cruciate tear your dog may go through periods of joint discomfort. This responds to conventional pain control.