Does your dog have a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL/ACL)? They might require surgery to correct it. In this blog, our Tigard vets talk about three common surgeries veterinarians use to treat ACL injuries in dogs.
Your Dog's Knee & ACL Injuries
In order for your dog to live a happy and active lifestyle, their knees have to stay healthy and pain-free.
But, while there may be various different brands of high-quality dog foods and supplements available that could help your pup's joints stay in optimal condition, cruciate injuries (also referred to as ACL injuries) can occur suddenly and make your dog very uncomfortable.
A Dog's Cranial Cruciate Ligament
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two ligaments your dog has in their leg and its task is to link the shin bone to the thigh bone and let your dog's knee move properly.
Injuries causing knee pain that stem from a torn ACL can happen suddenly during exercise, but in many cases, they develop gradually over a period of time. If your dog has injured their cruciate and keeps playing, running, and jumping, their injury will probably get worse, making their symptoms more pronounced and painful.
The Causes of Knee Pain in Dogs
When a dog suffers from a torn ACL, their pain comes from the knee's instability and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by the transmission of weight up your dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, causing the tibia to “thrust” forward in relation to the dog's thigh bone (femur). This forward thrust movement happens because the top of the tibia is sloped, and your pup's injured ACL is unable to prevent the unwanted movement from occurring.
Signs Your Dog Might Have an ACL Injury
If your dog is experiencing knee pain as a result of an injured ACL they won't be able to walk or run properly and will probably also exhibit other symptoms like:
- Stiffness following exercise
- Limping in their hind legs
- Difficulties rising up off of the floor
Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs
Generally, ACL injuries don't heal on their own. If your pooch is displaying signs of a torn ACL you have to schedule an appointment with your vet to have your dog's injury diagnosed so their treatment can begin as quickly as possible before their symptoms become worse and more painful.
Your veterinarian will probably recommend one of three surgeries if your dog has a torn ACL, to help your pooch get back to a pain-free state.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
This ACL surgery is typically used to treat dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds and works by preventing the tibial thrust with a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ACL has time to heal, and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength. ELSS surgery is fairly quick and uncomplicated with a good success rate in smaller dogs.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery but is typically very successful in treating ACL injuries in dogs. This surgery option aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's ACL. The procedure involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. A metal plate is then added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Your canine companion's leg will gradually heal and get stronger over the course of several months.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
While TTA surgery shares similarities to TPLO surgery, it isn't used for treating dogs with ACL injuries as often. In this form of knee surgery, the front part of the tibia is surgically separated from the rest of the bone, then a spacer is added between the two sections to move the front section up and forward. The goal of this procedure is to prevent a lot of the tibia thrust movement from happening. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has had sufficient time to heal. Dogs that have a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) could be great candidates for this ACL surgical procedure.
Knowing Which ACL Surgery is Best for Your Dog
After your vet examines the movement and geometry of your dog's knee they will take your dog's weight, age, lifestyle, and size into consideration in order to determine the best possible treatment plan for your pup.
Recovery Time for Dogs After ACL Surgery
It doesn't matter which treatment plan has been selected, the healing process after ACL surgery is relatively long. With TPLO surgery, lots of dogs can walk again as early as 24 hours after their procedure, but, it will take 12 - 16 weeks or more for your dog to make a full recovery and get back to their usual activities. It is essential to follow your vet's post-operative instructions in order to help your dog return to their normal activities as quickly and safely as possible, without risking re-injury. Allowing your dog to return to an active lifestyle too soon after surgery could lead to injuring the knee all over again.
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.