You might hear about athletes dealing with ACL injuries, but this injury is also very common in dogs due to the anatomy of their legs. Today, our the Pacific Northwest vets list symptoms of injuries and discuss ACL surgery for dogs to treat these common knee injuries.
What is the ACL or CCL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the center of our knees. In dogs, this connective tissue is referred to as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and it connects the dog’s tibia (bone below the knee) to the femur (bone above the knee).
Since the dog’s knee is always bent when standing, the CCL is always load-bearing.
Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries
ACL injuries are often found in athletes. These types of injuries usually occur as a result of acute trauma stemming from a sudden movement such as a change of direction or jump. In dogs, CCL injuries tend to come on gradually, progressively worsening with activity until a tear happens.
Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs
These are common signs of a CCL injury:
- Hind leg limping or lameness
- Difficulty jumping or rising
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise)
If your dog’s CCL injury is mild, continued activity will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more evident and painful.
Typically, a dog suffering from a single torn CCL will start to favor his non-injured leg during activity. This often leads to an injury in the second knee. About 60% of dogs with a single CCL injury will eventually injure the other knee within a relatively short period of time.
Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs
If your vet has diagnosed your pooch with a CCL injury, you may have a few treatment options available, from knee braces to surgery. To determine the best treatment for your dog’s CCL injury, your vet will consider your dog’s size, weight and age, in addition to his lifestyle and energy level.
Treating a CCL injury with a knee brace is a non-surgical option that may help to stabilize the knee joint, and give the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CCL injuries through the use a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with reduced levels of activity.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
This surgery involves replacing the torn ligament with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint. This ACL surgery is typically recommended for small to medium-sized dogs weighing less than 50lbs.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
With this surgical technique, the need for the CCL ligament is eliminated by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau, then stabilizing it in a new position with a plate and screws.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement - TTA
TTA surgery also eliminates the need for the CCL ligament by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and then stabilizing it in its new position with a stainless steel metal plate.
Recovery from ACL Surgery
Every dog is unique, and not all dogs recover at the same speed. Follow your vet's advise and never force your dog to do exercises if they resist. Recovery from ACL surgery takes time! Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to have complete healing and return to normal function.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.