Dog Knee Infected After CCL Knee Surgery – Infection Caused by Surgical Hardware

The following story and questions came from reader Nina through our Contact Page. I haven’t had any experience with these problems, so I’m hoping that some of our readers can help answer some of Nina’s questions.

My Boxer mix had tight rope surgery on his knee April 2010. I did all the slow rehabilitation like the vet requested. His knee still gave him problems and after several more vet visits has been placed on anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications which do not seem to help. Recently a digital x-ray showed that two things may be the problem:

  1. The hardware is causing an infection that will not go away unless the hardware is taken out
  2. The cushioning in between the joints is damaged

Either way I was told the hardware must come out. Then the possibility of repairing the knee with the top of the line hardware with all the metal may be needed. How can the hardware cause an infection that no antibiotic will help and if its the hardware causing the infection how can another piece of hardware be different? Also is there anything else I can do to help this poor dogs knee besides another costly surgery and more hardware?

My guesses were as follows: the only way that the hardware could cause an infection is if the hardware that was placed inside the knee during surgery was not sterile. If that were the case, then the veterinarian would be responsible for cost/replacement/etc. Other than surgery, the typical options are conservative management, weight management, drugs and medications, and/or dietary supplements.


  1. Gayle says

    My dog has a torn ligament in the knee
    The vet said, surgery would be considered when both ligaments rupture.
    Is this routine. Or should it be repaired while one ligament is a problem?

    • says

      Hi Gayle –

      I have not heard of this. Do you mean the ligaments in both knees? or multiple ligaments in one knee? I am unfortunately not an expert on the anatomy of dogs, but I’d guess if there are 2 ligaments in the single knee and only one is torn, the dog may be able to get around and still have enough stability in the joint that could allow for mobility and support. I hope this info helps.

  2. Tessha Gathings says

    The hardware does not have to be contaminated at surgery to develop an infection. Any implant can serve as a place for circulating bacteria.Bacteria may have entered during the time of surgery–as it is impossible to completely elimate bacteria that enter the wound while it is open, though most veterinarians are as sterile as possible and flush the site profusely prior to closing the incision. Bacteria that is circulating in the blood stream at the time of surgery or shortly after can also deposit on the implant. This circulating bacteria can come from dental disease, an undiagnosed urinary tract infection, or other potential sources. Once the bacteria attach to the implant, the implant then protects the bacteria from the immune system or antibiotics that we may try to treat it with. Then the only way to resolve the infection is to remove the implant.

    • says

      Hi Tessha –

      Thanks for your response. As I’ve said on this site many times before, I’m definitely not a vet, and certainly not a surgeon, so I appreciate the input (and I’m sure our readers do as well) from someone who definitely seems to know what they’re talking about.

      Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Jill says

    Hi, our Australian silky terrier had his CL operated on in December having a wire put in to replace the ligament. We had this done while in the UK, we found communication with german vets very difficult, we then returned to Germany. 3 weeks later while we thought everything was going well all of a sudden Max started limping on the same leg again! New vet x-rayed and confirmed wire had snapped and suggested we remove wire and replace with metal plate far more efficient we were informed, when surgery commenced they found it to be infected! so they removed wire stitched him up and now we are waiting for infection to clear with anti-biotics! What a nightmare! now the muscle which was already deteroriated is worse, so the vet wants us try and build up the muscle and will review whether they operate in a month or not. I was told the infection would of come from unsterile equipment. My main concern is what happens if muscle tissue cannot be built up? He has no ligament in there and he can’t stay on pain killer for ever. Help!

    • Nina says

      Hi Jill, My boxer had the tightrope procedure done on his knee with complications and also lost muscle mass in his bad leg due to the fact that it never healed correctly. I had the tightrope taken out by another vetrinary specialist and when he was able he started therapy in a underwater treadmill. Not only did he recover sooner then the first surgery he regained muscle in areas on his leg that I was told he would never regain!

      • Jill says

        Hi NIna, wow that’s great, will your boxer have further surgery now that his leg has regained muscle? Our dog Max (Australian Terrier) has now had his 2nd surgery on his knee and is now in week 8 of recovery, we too have been doing underwater walking therapy and highly recommend it.

      • Nina says

        Hi Jill, The second surgeon said he should do just fine. However nothing is for sure and if he did have problems the next step would be all of the hardware. To date tate is doing great! He runs, jumps wants to go all the time however the therapist recommended that I do not let him jump out of the back of my truck other than that no problems. I hope your dog continues to to do well.

  4. susanne says

    my dog just had a torn cruciate ligament surgery 9 days ago. the other leg had the surgery about 4 yrs. ago–she is 13. she is having trouble walking; and getting up from a sit without urinating. the ‘good’ leg is stressed the vet says. we do minimal walking, just to pee and pooh. she is not getting better. how do you rehab this? what do you do if both legs do not work??? i do assist her at times with a towel under her belly, but she just can’t walk. i am the one who is with her; wondering how others are handling their dog’s rehab? i am not doing it with grace. i am so worried. help!

    • Nina says

      Hi Susanne, Both of my dogs have done great with a physical therapist. My 6 yr boxer had knee surgery twice, 12 yr German shephard has arthritis in his back, hips and rear legs. Both dogs responded well with lazer therapy and adaquin shots for the joints. Also the boxer utilized the under water treadmill with great success. The shephard was losing controll of his rear legs and falling down alot he is getting lazer treatments currently then maybe the treadmill or accupunture or electrolysis . I have seen alot of senior pets through the mothes who have done remarkable well with my veternarian who incorporates holistic and thereapy such as the above also your dog may need assistance with wheels for know. I hope this is some help

  5. Jill says

    We have always had the support of a dog physio, before and after surgery to help with rehab. She has been wonderful and is very knowledgeable, maybe that would help. Our is dog is undergoing his second cl surgery (first one got infected) this coming Thursday and I am not looking forward to it at all. He is 6 years old. I am not sure but it is still very soon after surgery for your older dog maybe she just needs a bit more rest and time. Sorry not very helpful, but maybe speak to a dog physio.

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