Cooper, the 8 year old Rottweiler, came into the clinic in November 2006 to check her left hind leg. Earlier in the year she had been exercising in the back yard and became lame all of a sudden. She seemed to get better but slowly started getting worse, and had been particularly bad over the previous few months, to the point where she was favouring the leg almost all of the time.
The conformation of the stifle joint in dogs and cats is very similar to the knee joint in humans, and the ligament most commonly damaged is the cranial cruciate ligament, the same one most commonly damaged by professional athletes. When an animal ruptures its cruciate ligament, usually as the result of running around or landing awkwardly, it is initially very painful and they will hold the leg up. After a time, the pain reduces as they may begin to use the leg again, but as the joint is unstable the abnormal motion causes continual wear and tear on the joint.
It was decided that Cooper would have surgery to stabilise her stifle. Unfortunately as the injury had been so long standing she had already developed arthritis in the joint. With stabilisation the development of arthritis should slow down and it should become more comfortable for her to use the leg. Cooper had what is termed a modified De Angelis procedure, where a very strong suture is placed from the back of the femur across the joint and to the front of the tibia, to mimic the action of the missing cruciate ligament. It also gives an opportunity to surgically enter the joint and attempt to clean it out, removing the damaged portions of the ligament and any damaged sections of menisci (c-shaped cartilages of the stifle), which can help to reduce the pain associated with such injuries.
Cooper recovered well from the operation and after her period of rehabilitation has obtained a good result, where she is quite comfortable on her leg and is using it very well, almost back to normal. Because she has arthritis in the joint she will need ongoing care for this, in Cooper's case we have used a course of injections called Cartrophen, which helps in the rebuilding of cartilage, improving the quality of joint fluid and increasing circulation to the joint. Also she is using a product called Sasha's Blend, which contains green lipped muscle, abalone and marine cartilage, all of which can help in the relief of the symptoms of arthritis.