Many of us know about athletes frequently injuring their ACLs, but due to the anatomy of your dog's leg, this painful knee injury is also very common in dogs. Our Douglasville vets explain the symptoms of ACL/CCL injuries in dogs, and the surgeries used to treat this condition.
Human ACL vs Dog CCL
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our human knees.
In dogs, this connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and it connects your pet's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). While there are some differences between the ACL of humans and the CCL of dogs, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is often considered to be a dog's ACL.
One crucial difference between a person's ACL and your dog's CCL is that in dogs, this ligament is load-bearing. This is because their knee is always bent while they are standing.
ACL Injuries in People Vs. CCL Injuries In Dogs
ACL injuries in people are very common in athletes that play sports like basketball and soccer. These injuries tend to occur in humans due to an acute trauma resulting from a sudden movement such as a jump or change of direction.
In dogs, ACL injuries tend to occur gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs and your dog's mobility is affected.
Signs Of ACL Injuries In Dogs
The most common signs of an ACL injury in dogs include:
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
Continued activity on a mildly injured leg will worsen the injury and symptoms will quickly become more severe.
If your dog is suffering from a single torn ACL you may notice that they begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity. This often leads to the injury of the second knee. It is estimated that 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury soon go on to injure the second knee.
Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments
If your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL injury, there are a number of treatment options available from knee braces to surgery. When determining the best treatment for your pup's injury, your veterinarian will take your dog's age, size and weight into consideration in addition to your pup's lifestyle and energy level.
When it comes to ACL surgery for dogs there are a number of options available, however, when it comes to non-surgical treatments for dog ACL injuries total crate rest combined with pain medications and knee braces are the only options.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
- This surgery involves replacing the torn cruciate ligament with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint. This ACL surgery for dogs is typically only recommended for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50lbs.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
- TPLO is a popular and very effective orthopedic surgery that works by removing the need for the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) 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 eliminates the need for the cranial cruciate 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.
Dog Knee Brace
- Treating an ACL injury with a knee brace is an option that avoids surgery that could help stabilize the knee joint in some dogs. The support provided by a knee brace gives the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CCL injuries through the use of a knee brace may be successful for some dogs when combined with restricted activity.
Recovery From Canine ACL Surgery
Whichever treatment you choose for your dog, full recuperation from an ACL injury is a long process. Your dog will need 16 weeks or more to return to normal functioning. Roughly a year after surgery your dog should be running and jumping like their old self again.
To avoid re-injury after your dog's ACL surgery, be sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions closely and attend regular follow-up appointments so that your vet can monitor your pet's recovery progress.
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.