What are Achilles Tendon Injuries?
Your dog’s Achilles tendon, also known as the common calcaneal tendon, is in his hind limb and composed of multiple muscles. Your dog’s injury may be classified as traumatic, such as from a blunt force trauma or laceration, or atraumatic with the cause being degeneration.
Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose your dog’s injury by utilizing radiograph and ultrasound imaging. Surgery is the ideal treatment plan in order for your dog to be able to use his leg properly again. Recovery is a long process but is possible.
An Achilles tendon injury is extremely serious. If your dog has hurt himself suddenly or stops using his leg, take him to his veterinarian for an evaluation.
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Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs
Symptoms may include:
- Refusal to move or add weight to a hind leg
- Flat footed stance
- Toes curled downward
- Heat in the area of injury
The Achilles tendon is the largest complex tendon in the dog. It is the combined insertion of five different muscles. There are three different types of Achilles tendon injuries. One type is a complete disruption of the of the tendon apparatus itself; this means there is no tension placed on the Achilles tendon when the hock is flexed. Dogs with this type of injury typically have a plantigrade stance. The second type involves a lengthened Achilles tendon system. The third type of injury the Achilles tendon is intact but inflamed.
Causes of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs
Injury to the Achilles tendon may be acute or chronic. Chronic injuries are typically more difficult to repair than acute injuries. Chronic tendon injuries results with the contracture and fibrosis difficult to identify as well as the apposition. Acute injury can be a result of a trauma to the tendon. The Achilles tendon is also known as the common calcanean tendon.
Diagnosis of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs
Diagnosing an Achilles tendon injury can be done by one of multiple ways. Your veterinarian will begin by performing a full physical exam on your dog. When she gets to the area in question, she will manipulate it in multiple ways and put your dog through a series of exercises to determine the extent of the injury. She will try to discover how high and low it extends, what is all affected in the area, and how severe she believes the injury to be.
To confirm her suspicions, your veterinarian will likely suggest radiographs of the region. This will be able to show if there are any breaks in the bone associated with the injury or if it is all tissue and ligaments. She will then proceed with an ultrasound as another form of diagnostic imaging. The imaging is more sensitive and therefore can actually register tendons and ligaments. Your veterinarian will be able to determine what tendons are involved and if it is just a strain or tear.
For the overall general well being of your pet, she may also recommend routine blood work; especially if the Achilles tendon injury is a result of trauma. Your veterinarian will want to ensure there is no internal bleeding and that all of your dog’s internal organs are still functioning properly.
Treatment of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs
Surgical repair is the most successful form of treatment. Debridement of the tendon, along with the repair, followed by proper recovery, are extremely important for your dog. You will need to go to a specialist for the surgery as it is not a common surgery general veterinarians perform often. Depending on the type of injury to the Achilles tendon, the surgical approach will vary. Once surgery is complete, it is imperative the tarsal is immobilized and supported properly. If not cared for properly, the tendon repair will not hold. Your dog will have some sort of external stabilization, such as a splint, which will keep the tarsus in place and slightly extended but in the weight-bearing position.
In order to monitor the repair of the tendon, your veterinarian may recommend ultrasounds periodically. The full healing process may take years as it is a slow process. Your dog will need extensive physical therapy if you want him to be able to continue to use his foot and leg properly. There are ranges of motion he will need to be put through on a daily basis for him to be able to keep his flexibility in the region as it heals. Not moving it will freeze the area and can lead to permanent disability. Additional physical therapy may be suggested in the form of swimming or a water treadmill to begin with. This will encourage your dog to continue to use the affected region but without the added pressure of all his body weight as the water will be holding him up.
Laser light therapy may also be beneficial to his recovery. Also known as photobiomodulation, the laser light increases blood flow to the area which promotes healing, provides an analgesic effect and can penetrate down to all the tendons affected.
Recovery of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs
Most dogs with an Achilles tendon injury are able to recover enough to have a normal daily pet life. However, if your dog is an athlete, prognosis of returning to normal competition level is poor. Even if the tendon does heal, pain and dysfunction may persist on a daily basis.