What does Rascal Clarke and a number of unlucky footballers have in common?

Rascal the 9 year old Chihuahua cross became lame in her left hind leg after a walk one day. Initially she didn't want to put any weight on the leg but then started using it a little bit. When she came to see us Dr Craig rated her lameness as 2.5 out of 5 for lameness. On examination, he found that she had excessive laxity or movement in her knee, and diagnosed the injury as a torn cruciate ligament.

Dr Craig advised that the best treatment was surgery to remove the torn ligament and tissue in the knee and stabilise the joint with a special suture technique. Rascal's owner, Melissa, was familiar with this problem, because Rascal had had the same problem in the other knee 3 years ago. Rascal booked in to have the surgery the following week and she was treated with anti-inflammatories in the meantime.

Dr Clare did the surgery and Rachael assisted and monitored the anaesthetic. Once Rascal was anaesthetised, it was confirmed that there was a lot of laxity or movement in the knee joint, therefore supporting the diagnosis of a torn cruciate ligament.

Rascal was given intravenous fluids and morphine for pain relief through the surgery. Her knee joint was surgically opened up, the torn cruciate ligament was removed and the joint was flushed with sterile saline. There were irregular arthritic changes to the cartilage in the joint and these were rasped.

Two derotational sutures with a strong, non absorbable suture material were placed around the knee to stabilise it. Then the muscle, connective tissue and skin were closed in 3 layers.

After the operation, a bandage was put on her leg to support it for a week. Once the bandage was removed, Rascal was encouraged to walk short distances on the lead and gradually build up the length of her walks. She was also given a course of cartrophen or pentosan injections once a week for 4 weeks. This reduces the inflammation and pain in the joint and prevents the development of arthritis.

How can you stop this from happening to your pet?

  • Tearing of the cruciate ligament occurs when the ligament is diseased and/or there are excessive forces placed on the knee.
  • It most commonly occurs in overweight dogs when they are exercising.
  • You can prevent this form happening to your dog, by keeping him/her at a healthy weight and managing any arthritis or joint pain that they may develop early on.
Stitches After surgery - the bandaged