ACL injuries are very common in dogs. In this article, our Fort Collins vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries that can be performed to treat these common knee injuries.
What Is A Dog's ACL or CCL
In canines, the equivalent of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) found in humans is known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). This ligament serves to connect the tibia (the bone below the knee) to the femur (the bone above the knee) in dogs. Therefore, while there are distinctions, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) functions similarly to the ACL in dogs.
One significant disparity between the ACL in humans and the CCL in dogs is that the CCL in dogs constantly bears weight since a dog's knee remains bent when they are standing.
Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs
Athletes frequently experience ACL injuries, often resulting from sudden movements like jumping or changing direction abruptly (as observed in basketball players, for instance). These injuries typically stem from acute trauma. On the other hand, CCL injuries in dogs manifest differently, typically developing gradually over time and worsening with increased activity until a tear eventually occurs.
Signs of ACL Injuries in Dogs
The most common signs of a CCL injury in dogs are:
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
Continued activity on a injured leg will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.
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. Approximately 60% of dogs with a single CCL injury will go on to injure the other knee soon afterward.
Treating Injuries of ACL in Dogs
If your dog has been diagnosed with a cruciate injury, various treatment options are available, ranging from knee braces to surgery. When deciding on the most suitable treatment for your dog's injury, your veterinarian will consider factors such as your dog's age, size, weight, as well as their lifestyle and energy level.
Treating a CCL injury with a knee brace is a non-surgical option that may help to 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 a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with restricted activity.
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 recommended for small to medium sized breeds weighing less than 50lbs.
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, 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.
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 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.