ACL injuries are common in athletes, but did you know that a similar type of injury can occur in dogs? In today's post, our Laguna Beach vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries that are performed to treat this painful knee injury. 

Your Dog's Cranial Cruciate Ligament

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue that helps to stabilize the human knee. In dogs this connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL or sometimes CrCL) and it connects your dog's tibia (shin bone) to their femur (thigh bone). Your dog's CCL also performs the essential function of stabilizing the knee joint.

Although there are some similarities between your ACL and your dog's CCL they work differently. The primary difference between a person's ACL and your pup's CCL is that for dogs, unlike people, this ligament is always load-bearing. This is because your pet's knee always remains bent when they are standing. 

Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs

ACL injuries in people are particularly common in athletes. These injuries tend to occur due to an acute trauma stemming from a sudden movement such as a jump or change of direction (think of basketball players in action).  In dogs, CCL injuries tend to come on gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs. 

Because the cranial cruciate ligament is so commonly called an ACL, from this point on we will refer to your dog's CCL as their ACL.

Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs

There are a number of symptoms that are commonly seen in dogs with ACL injuries, including:

  • Stiffness (particularly after rest, following exercise).
  • Difficulty rising off floor.
  • Struggling to jump up on furniture or climb stairs.
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.

Continued activity on a mildly injured leg will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.

Dogs suffering from a single torn ACL 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 ACL injury will go on to injure the other knee soon afterward. 

Treatment Options for Dogs Suffering From ACL Injuries

There are a number of treatment options available for dogs suffering from ACL injuries, although, in most cases surgery is the best and most effective option. When determining the right treatment for your dog, your vet will consider your dog's age, size, weight, lifestyle and energy level. 

Knee Brace

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

Your dog's recover from their ACL injury is going to be a slow process regardless of which treatment you choose. Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to completely heal from surgery and return to normal function. A year after surgery your dog will be running and jumping like their old self again.

To help 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.

Does your dog have an ACL injury that requires treatment? Our Laguna Beach vets are here to help.  Contact Canyon Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your canine companion.