You may be familiar with ACL injuries as being very common in human athletes. Because of dogs' anatomies, however, this type of injury is also exceedingly common in our canine companions. Here, our Plains veterinary team explains the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries which can be performed to treat these knee injuries.
What is the ACL or CCL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees.
When we are speaking about this kind of connective tissue in dogs, we are actually referring to the CCL (the cranial cruciate ligament), which connects your dog's tibia (the bone below their knee) to their femur (the bone above their knee.
The CCL is always load bearing because the dog's knee is always bent when standing.
Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries
In humans, SCL injuries are quite common in athletes. These injuries are often caused by sudden movement such as a jump or change of direction which causes acute trauma to the tissue. In dogs, the CCL tends to be injured gradually until it tears after progressive worsening.
Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs
The most common signs of an CCL injury are:
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
If activity is continued on a minorly injured CCL, the injury will only grow worse and symptoms will 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 relatively short period of time.
Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs
If your dog has been diagnosed with a CCL injury, there is a variety of treatment options available to them ranging from knee braces to surgical interventions. When deciding on the best treatment for your dog's particular case, your vet will take your dog's weight, size and age into account as well as their lifestyle and energy level.
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 a stainless steel metal plate.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
With this surgical technique, the need for the CCL ligament is eliminated by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau, then stabilizing it in a new position with a plate and screws.
Treating a CCL injury with a knee brace is a non-surgical option that may help to stabilize the knee joint, and give 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 reduced levels of activity.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
This surgery involves replacing 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.
Recovery from ACL Surgery
Every dog is unique and not all recover at the same speed or to the same degree, Make sure to follow your vet's advice and never force your dog to do exercises if they are resistant. Recovery from ACL surgery always takes time, and trying to rush it will do your pup no good. It can take 16 weeks or more for your dog to completely recover from their injury and to be able to return to normal functioning.