Achilles and Gastrocnemius Tendon Tears

The Achilles tendon is attached onto the heel bone (calcaneous bone) of the hind limb and is responsible to keep the heel of the paw elevated off the ground. The Achilles tendon is composed of five tendons: the gastrocnemius (G), superficial digital flexor (SDF), and three other less significant tendons called the gracilis, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris tendons (B). The gastrocnemius tendon is quite large and attaches onto the heel bone. The superficial digital flexor rides over the back of the heel bone and splits into four separate tendons that attach onto each of the four toes (digits) of the hind limb.

Cause of tendon tears
In dobermans, Achilles tendon tears are most commonly associated with a degenerative process within the tendon that occurs over a period of time. In active, large-breed dogs, the cause of the tendon tear is likely due to trauma. The tendon may also be lacerated by a sharp object such as broken glass.

Signs and diagnosis
Hind limb lameness is the most common sign of an Achilles tendon tear. Most dogs that have this kind of injury are large-breed, mature dogs. If only the gastrocnemius tendon is torn, the hock will be partially dropped towards the ground, and the toes will be curled with weight-bearing. If the entire Achilles tendon is torn, the dog will walk with the paw dropped onto the ground. X-rays may be recommended to rule out a fracture of the heel bone, as this type of fracture can also mimic a gastrocnemius tendon tear. Prior to anesthesia and surgery, blood work is done in order to evaluate the health of the internal organs.

For a successful outcome, surgical repair of the tendon is necessary. An incision is made over the site of the torn tendons, and they are surgically connected together. If the tendon is torn off the end of the calcaneous (heel) bone, holes are drilled in the bone, the sutures are passed through bone, and stitched into the tendon.

Most patients respond very well to surgery with resolution of lameness. If the tendon tear is not treated within a week or two after it was torn, it may become very difficult to reconnect the tendons back together due to permanent contracture of the muscles. Uncommon complications following surgery include infection, failure of healing to take place and recurrence of the tendon tear.

For more information on this subject, speak to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.