ACL Injury in Dogs

When our canine companions love to spend time running around, there will always be a risk of injuries occurring. Here, our San Angelo vets talk about the symptoms associated with an ACL injury and how your vet will treat these injuries in dogs.

The ACL in Dogs - What is the CCL?

Your dog has a piece of connective tissue in their knees, much like a human's ACL. In dogs, however, it is attached differently and referred to as the CCL or cranial cruciate ligament.

This connective tissue connects your pup's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). So, although there are differences, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is your dog's ACL.

The main difference between a dog's knee and a human knee is that in dogs, they are always bent and therefore always loadbearing.

What are the symptoms of a torn ACL in dogs?

The most common symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs are:

  • Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
  • Difficulty rising and jumping.
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.

If you think that your dog has suffered from an ACL injury then you should put them on crate rest as soon as possible and call your vet to book an examination.

Dogs suffering from a single torn CCL will typically begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity which commonly leads to the injury of the second knee. If your dog has an ACL injury and you don't bring them in as soon as possible for treatment it could lead to injury to the other knees.

How Torn ACLs Are Treated

There are a number of different treatment options for dogs with ACL/CCL injuries. When determining the best treatment for your dog's injury, your vet will take your dog's age, size and weight into consideration as well as your pup's lifestyle and energy level.  

When it comes to treating an ACL injury in dogs, the most common forms of treatment are:

Knee Brace For Stabilization

Depending on the severity of the injury, your vet may be able to recommend a non-invasive treatment method such as stabilization using a knee brace. These are designed to help hold the knee and connective tissues in place throughout healing. 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 in some dogs when combined with restricted activity. 

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

With this surgical procedure, an artificial ligament will be used as a replacement for the torn or damaged one. This ACL surgery for dogs is typically recommended for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 lbs. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

TPLO is a popular and very successful surgery that works to eliminate the need for the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau, and 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.

What to Expect With CCL Surgery

You will need to expect an intense recovery period after your dog is treated for a torn ACL. No matter which type of treatment is used, your dog will 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 their old self again.

To speed your pup's recovery from an ACL injury be sure to follow your vet's advice and never force your dog to do exercises if they resist. To avoid re-injury be sure to follow your vet's instructions closely 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.

Are you worried that your dog is showing common signs of CCL injuries? Contact our San Angelo vets to schedule an examination.