Treating tendon and ligament injuries in dogs
By Lori Blankenship, Ph.D., DVM, CVA
One of the most common injuries in the dog causes damage to the cranial cruciate ligament. Sprains, strains and tears often occur in this ligament of the hind limb when dogs are running, turning and jumping.
Breeds most likely to sustain this injury include Akita, American Staffordshire Terrier, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Rottweiler and St. Bernard. The incidence is 1.8 percent in all dogs, and is more prevalent in dogs who have been spayed or neutered (JAVMA Vol. 31, No 11, 2007).
While tears in this ligament of the knee are traditionally treated with surgical repair, many are very treatable with holistic medicine. Severe tears resulting in joint instability may be treated with a combination of surgery and alternative medicine to aid in the healing. There are often cases where surgery is not an option due to other musculoskeletal problems or financial considerations.
In our practice we treat many cases of cranial cruciate damage with a multi-modal approach. Often the dog is supported with a diet change using the principles of Chinese Food Therapy. Tendons and ligaments are nourished by blood. The use of blood tonic foods in the diet support dogs with these injuries to allow them to heal with ease. Dietary supplements that support the joints are added.
Acupuncture using points that tonify, or strengthen, blood and treat pain along with cold laser therapy of the affected joint aids the healing process. These treatments are repeated weekly for 3-5 weeks and then tapered as needed. Because every case is different, each dog will likely have a different acupuncture schedule.
The addition of a homeopathic remedy is often used especially in the beginning stages of the injury. We have had a few cases who were treated with homeopathy only and healed without incident.
Case Report: Getting Charlie back on her feet — without surgery
Charlie, a lab/chow mix, presented to us in 2012 for a left hind limb lameness. Like most dogs with ligament damage, Charlie is a very active dog, running with her owner many times per week. Her stifle joint was examined, and there was obvious movement in the joint indicating that the cruciate ligament had significant damage. After much discussion on the options available — surgery, or acupuncture and dietary therapy, Charlie’s owners chose to treat her with holistic care only and wait on surgery.
She responded well and by the third treatment was bearing weight on the limb when walking. Charlie was treated successfully and she began running with her owner again within six months. She sustained an injury to the right hind in stifle and has been treated for bilateral cruciate injury since then. She now has acupuncture monthly and currently runs with her owner again as she has always enjoyed. She eats a diet rich in blood tonic foods, and is maintained on supplements and Chinese Herbs to tonify blood and support her tendons and ligaments.
Vet’s Corner is sponsored by Animals First Veterinary Service.
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Meet the vet: Lori Blankenship received her B.S. in biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvannia in 1989, Ph.D. in genetic toxicology from George Washington University in 1996 and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000.