ACL injuries often occur in athletes, but due to the anatomy of your dog's leg, this injury is also very common in dogs. Today our Tigard vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries that can be performed to treat these common knee injuries.
ACL / CCL
In people, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees.
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is a connective tissue in dogs that connects the tibia (bone below the knee) to the femur (bone above the knee). Although there are differences, your dog's ACL is the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).
One main difference between a person's ACL and your pup's CCL is that for a dog this ligament is always load-bearing since your pet's knee is always bent when standing.
Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs
ACL injuries are especially common among athletes. These injuries are typically the result of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement, such as a jump or change of direction (think of basketball players in action). CCL injuries in dogs typically develop gradually, worsening with the activity until a tear occurs.
Signs of ACL Injuries in Dogs
The most common signs of a CCL injury in dogs are:
- 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 cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.
Dogs with a single torn CCL will typically favor the non-injured leg during activity, which frequently leads to injury to the second knee. Approximately 60% of dogs who sustain a single CCL injury will later injure the other knee.
Treating Injuries of ACL in Dogs
If your dog has a cruciate injury, there are several treatment options available, ranging from knee braces to surgery. Your vet will consider your dog's age, size, and weight, as well as his or her lifestyle and energy level when determining the best treatment for your dog's injury.
A knee brace is a non-surgical option for treating a CCL injury that may help stabilize the knee joint in some dogs. The support provided by a knee brace allows the ligament to heal and scar. When combined with restricted activity, treating CCL injuries with a knee brace may be successful in some dogs.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
The torn cruciate ligament is replaced with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint during this surgery. This ACL surgery for dogs is usually reserved for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 pounds.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
TPLO is a popular and highly successful surgery that cuts and flattens the tibial plateau before 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
Regardless of which treatment you decide is best for your dog, recovery from a dog ACL injury is a slow process. Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to have complete healing and return to normal function. A year after surgery your dog will be running and jumping like its old self again.
Follow your vet's advice to speed your dog's recovery from an ACL injury, and never force your dog to do exercises if they resist. To avoid re-injury, carefully follow your veterinarian's instructions and attend regular follow-up appointments so that your veterinarian can monitor your pet's recovery.
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.