ACL injuries are quite common in human athletes, but because of dogs' anatomies, this leg injury can also be frequently found in our canine companions. Here, our West Chester vets explain the symptoms of these joint injuries as they are found in dogs and what kinds of surgeries can be performed in order to treat them.
What is the ACL or CCL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees.
When speaking about this connective tissue in dogs, it's called the cranial cruciate ligament—also known as the CCL—and connects your dog's bones above and below their knees.
Since a dog's leg is always bent while standing, the CCL is always load-bearing.
Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries
Injuries to people's ACLs are most commonly found in athletes. These injuries often stem from acute trauma caused by sudden movement like a change of direction or a jump. The CCL in dogs tends to be injured much more gradually, progressing until a tear occurs through repeated activity.
Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs
The most common signs of a CCL injury are:
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
Continued activity on a mildly injured CCL will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.
Generally speaking, a dog suffering from a single torn CCL will favor their non-injured legs during activities. This, unfortunately, will often lead to an injury in a second knee. Over half of pups will a single CCL injury will go on to injure a different knee within a relatively short period of time.
Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs
If diagnosed with a CCL injury, your dog will have a number of different treatment options available to them, from knee braces to surgery. When determining the best treatment for your dog's injury, our West Chester veterinarians will take into account your dog's age, weight size as well as lifestyle and energy level.
Treating a CCL injury with a knee brace is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment option which may help to stabilize your pup's knee and give their ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CCL injuries through a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combines with reduced levels of activity.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
Recommended for small to medium-sized dogs weighing less than 50lbs, this surgery involves the replacement of your pup's damaged ligament with an artificial one on the outside of their joint.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
This surgical technique cuts and flattens the tibial; plateau of your pup's knee and then stabilizes it with screws and plates. In this way, the need for the CCL ligament is eliminated.
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
Each dog is unique in their needs and recovery, and not all of them will take the same amount of time to heal after their procedure. Follow your veterinarian's advice and don't force your dog to do exercise if they are resistant. Recovery from ACL or CCL surgeries take time—16 weeks or longer for a complete heal and normal function in most dogs.