In dogs, the Achilles tendon is in the hind legs. It extends the hock joint together with the gastrocnemius muscle. Dog Achilles tendons pull up their feet and enable them to stand on their toes; it is also attached to a group of muscles called super digital flexor, which flexes the toes.
Types of Achilles tendon injury
Achilles tendon injury in dogs is either traumatic or degenerative and complete or partial.
Based on the cause of the injury: Achilles tendon injury might happen as a result of sudden trauma that causes a tear or strain on the tendon. This is known as a traumatic (acute) Achilles tendon injury. Chronic injuries, also known as degenerative injuries, happen over time as the tendon degenerates from use and suddenly ruptures. Degenerative Achilles tendon injury is linked with particular breeds that are genetically at risk of Achilles tendon injury.
Based on the nature of the injury: Achilles tendon injuries can be complete. This happens when the Achilles tendon has no tension when the hock is flexed. In complete injury of the Achilles tendon, the tendon apparatus is disrupted. Partial Achilles tendon injury happens either when the system consisting of the tendon and its attached muscles are elongated or when there is inflammation of the intact Achilles tendon.
Diagnosis of dog Achilles tendon injury is done using MRI, radiograph, and ultrasound imaging. Achilles tendon injury is a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care. If your dog stops using his leg or has a sudden traumatic injury, a visit to the vet is necessary.
Symptoms of Achilles tendon injury in dogs
- Plantigrade stance, also known as a flat-footed stance.
- Reluctance to move or place weight on a hind leg.
- Downward curling of the toes.
- Inflammation and heat in the injured area.
Risk factors for an Achilles tendon injury in dogs
All dogs are at risk of Achilles tendon injuries. However, large athletic and working dog breeds have a higher risk, especially as they get older. Examples of these breeds are German shepherds and Labrador retrievers. In addition, obesity, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease contribute to the risk of developing an Achilles tendon injury in dogs.
Dog Achilles tendon injury treatment
Surgery: Achilles tendon injury requires surgical treatment. The type of surgical procedure done usually depends on the type of Achilles tendon injury. After surgery, the hock joint is stabilized and supported externally with a splint to help to heal. The joint is stabilized for up to six weeks or longer. Dog Achilles tendon surgery costs are expensive, and the possibility of complications resulting in repeated surgeries makes supporting treatments like stem cell therapy more desirable.
Stem cell treatment: This is a regenerative therapy that improves the outcomes of dog Achilles tendon surgeries. It improves the surgical repair process and can be used as a stand-alone treatment option if the tendon injury involves a partial tear. Stem cells are injected locally into the affected area using ultrasound or radiography to guide the injection administration.
After treatment, most dogs require care to support recovery. Pain relief medications are provided after surgery, physical therapy sessions and laser light therapy also support recovery from Achilles tendon injuries. Overall, the healing process is slow and can last for years. Most dogs recover fully and can live a normal daily life but might not be able to engage in rigorous sporting or working activities because the pain might persist after healing.