Athletes often experience ACL injuries, but did you know that due to the anatomy of your dog's leg, they can also commonly suffer this issue? Join our New Hope vets as they explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries that can treat these common knee injuries.
What is the ACL / CCL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees.
In dogs, this structure is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and it connects the dog's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee).
Since your dog's knees are always bent when standing, the CCL is a load-bearing structure and plays an important role in your dog's ability to walk and stand.
What are the Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries?
ACL injuries, which are particularly common in human athletes, typically take place because of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement (e.g. jumping, changing direction.) In dogs, CCL injuries tend to come on gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs.
What are Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs?
Common signs of a CCL injury include:
- Stiffness (more obvious after rest or following play/exercise).
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
If a mildly injured CCL goes undiagnosed and treated, continued activity on the limb(s) will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.
Typically, dogs suffering from a single torn CCL will begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity which often leads to the injury of the second knee. Approximately 60% of dogs with a single CCL injury will go on to injure the other knee within a relatively short period of time.
How Do You Treat ACL Injuries in Dogs?
If your dog has been diagnosed with a CCL injury, there are several options to treat the condition ranging from knee braces to surgery. When determining the best treatment for your dog's CCL injury, your vet will take your dog's age, size, and weight into consideration as well as your dog's energy level and lifestyle.
A non-surgical option for the treatment of a CCL injury is using a knee brace that could help to stabilize the knee joint and give the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CCL injuries through the use of a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with reduced levels of activity.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
This procedure is a surgery involving the replacement of 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 dog's tibial plateau is cut and flattened and stabilized in a new position with a plate and screws, thereby eliminating the need for the CCL ligament.
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
Like people, every dog is unique and will recover at different speeds due to a number of factors. Follow your vet's advice 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.