VET’s VIEW: Many factors to consider when helping injured dogs

Jake injured his knee while exploring rabbit holes
Jake injured his knee while exploring rabbit holes
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Jake had been doing what terriers do best, traversing Cissbury Ring, exploring the rabbit holes, oblivious to his owner’s calls that it was time to go home.

When he did return it was on three legs, though no slower than before, and back home his dinner disappeared just as quickly too, but when he was still limping the next morning his owner decided it was time for a check up.

I discovered that Jake’s stifle joint – the equivalent of our knee – was swollen, and suspected he’d strained it, prescribing anti-inflammatory medication and rest.

A few days later the pain had diminished, but Jake was still limping, and now we could feel that the joint was unstable.

It appeared that Jake has damaged his cruciate ligament, a common occurrence in dogs and humans alike.

In both cases milder injuries may respond to rest and support, but there are important differences.

The angle of a dog’s stifle means there are greater sliding forces on the joint, whilst the more triangular shape of the thigh makes it more difficult to apply effective dressings.

In humans if the ligament is completely torn, surgery to replace its function is often carried out, and comparable techniques can work in dogs, but they are less successful in larger animals, where an operation to alter the angle of the joint and reduce the sliding forces is the treatment of choice.

The most appropriate technique will depend not only on the breed and size of your dog, but also factors such as age, weight and activity levels, and your vet will advise you on the best options for your pet.

Jake had to stay away from the rabbits for a few weeks, but eventually his leg did improve, and he was free to ignore his owner once more!