In dogs, the shoulder joint is called a ‘Ball and Socket’ joint, made from the shoulder blade and upper front leg bones, supported by both ligaments and tendons. A dog’s anatomy here is amazingly well built, allowing them to become the superb hunters, trackers, and workers they are! That being said, they are still susceptible to injury, just like us.
Anatomical Terms & Common Injuries
The simple dog-leg anatomical terms listed below are pretty basic but often confused. For example, ligaments are frequently mistaken for tendons, fractures are unrelated to sprains, etc. These simple terms below are used throughout this article.
Tendon: A tough ‘band’, made from connective tissue, connecting the body’s muscles to the bones. Thereby, they work to move. Damaging or tearing them will make the movement the attached muscle is associated difficult to potentially impossible (until sufficient healing).
Ligament: Another band of connective tissue, attaching bones to one another and holding joints together. Damaging or tearing these will be painful, and possibly will cause an immobilizing injury.
Sprain: Stretching, tearing or damaging ligaments. This usually will cause swelling and inflammation, as well as movement limitations. A ‘sprained leg’ is a type of damage to the ligaments in that leg/joint.
Fracture: A complete, partial or minor break in the bone. There are several different names for various types of fractures, depending on how the bone is broken. For an extreme example, the bone protruding from broken skin is called an open fracture. The list of fracture types also includes:
- Stable fracture;
- Open, compound fracture;
- Transverse fracture;
- Oblique fracture;
- Comminuted fracture.
Symptoms of Dog Shoulder and Leg Injuries
Of course, the symptoms you’ll see can vary depending on the injury and severity. However, there are always some general constants you can watch out for! In fact, some breeds can be more susceptible to injuries due to genetic or hereditary conditions. Common dog leg injury symptoms are:
- Change in gait, limp, or weakness;
- A decrease in muscle mass;
- Difficulty standing, walking, or getting up;
- Sudden fall or stumbling when walking;
- Swelling, tenderness;
- Whine or whimper;
- Avoidance from steps or jumping;
- Depression or lethargy.
Dog Cruciate Ligament Injury
In a dog’s knee joint, there are two cruciate ligaments, connecting the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone). These help to stabilize the knee joints. You’ve probably heard of an ACL or CLL tear, which is the abbreviation for what we call a cruciate tear. A ruptured ligament in this area isn’t life-threatening, but the dog will have a very hard time using that limb. In the case of a cruciate ligament, an injury dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
Signs of a Cruciate Injury
A tear here allows the tibia to move freely out from underneath the femur, leading to both pain and lameness. In fact, sudden lameness in a rear limb is usually the first sign that this area has been injured. Your dog will probably still be able to walk, but he won’t put weight on this particular leg.
If forced to bear weight with activity, the injury can get worse. On another hand, it will begin to heal with rest.
In case, the injury isn’t addressed, often by a veterinarian, your dog can begin to develop arthritis in that joint, leading to chronic lameness.
If your dog suddenly begins to show signs of pain and begins limping, take him to a vet!
Cruciate Injury Causes
Both slow degenerations of the ligament and trauma are the two main causes of injury in this area. Tears usually result from athletic activity. Also, landing in the wrong way when running or jumping can cause it as well. Overweight and/or obese dogs are more likely to experience this injury, as well as these certain breeds:
- Labrador retrievers;
- Staffordshire terriers.
Prevention & Treatment
Physical therapy combined with weight control and rest or light activity is far more likely to help your dog return to his normal, active life! Smaller and lighter dogs usually fare better and heal faster, than larger ones prone to developing osteoarthritis in the knee joint.
Weeks of cage/crate rest, combined with calm, mild leash walks (bathroom only), sit-to-stand exercises, and treadmill therapy or swimming are all often methods used for recovery. Anti-inflammatory drugs or joint health supplements can be prescribed by a veterinarian.
If the ligament has ruptured, usually surgery will be recommended by your veterinarian. Of course, these situations are extreme to require surgery, but a healthy recovery to normal activity is estimated at an 85%-90% chance!
Sutures are used to secure the femur and tibia, taking place of the ligament and allowing it to heal. Healing usually takes 8-12 weeks, at which point the sutures break and are no longer needed.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
This surgery is more complex than the repair listed above, requiring more training and expertise. Actually altering the knee joint’s biomechanics, the knee is able to function without a cruciate ligament attached. A cut is made on the tibial plateau (top), while the tibial plateau is rotated, changing the angle of the bone’s positioning, a metal plate is attached to the cut bone.
The leg is allowed to heal. Improvement begins quickly but gradually, requiring several months for healing.
Regardless of the method used, strict rest for at least eight weeks, often longer, is recommended. Physical therapy is used in longer-term recoveries.
Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)
This method is only slightly different than the TPLO above. Surgeons often call this procedure less invasive, offering a quicker recovery.
When you have a heavy, overweight or obese dog all that extra weight presses down on the dog’s joints as he stands or walks. The connective tissue starts to deteriorate in older animals anyway. By allowing a dog to become overweight, not only are you speeding up the process and increasing the chances for injury but increasing the pain and discomfort your pup feels also. In order to help your friend:
- Manage balanced and qualitative nutrition;
- Implement physical activities in a daily routine without overloading dog;
- Consider hormonal issues and treatments.
Read more about reasons why your dog is overweight and what you can do to prevent it here.
Stem Cell Therapy for Dogs
Different treatment options come with different benefits. Animal Stem Cell Therapy is a solution that combines several of them. Including faster, more effective and long-lasting results.
Stem cells occur naturally in the body and are organically drawn to areas that are damaged. They have the power to regenerate damaged tissues and therefore help prevent pain and other consequences like lameness. Moreover, they can help to stop the progression of the problem and prevent its repeated occurrence. That all is managed just with simple allogeneic or autologous stem cell injection procedure.
With Medrego Stem Cell Therapy with up to 90% success rate, your dog may show the first recovery results after a few weeks. Unlike other solutions stem cells maintain their positive impact for up to 3 years. Thanks to its high-efficiency Stem Cell Therapy also is going to be more cost-effective!
To find out more about Stem Cell Therapy and how it can help specifically your dog contact us!