Most folks know about ACL injuries in athletes, but did you realize that dogs can also experience ACL tears? Today, our San Jose vets discuss a dog's ACL, including what it is, common injuries, and treatment options.
A Dog's ACL
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees that connects the lower leg bone to the upper leg bone.
In dogs, we call this connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). As with a person's ACL, the CCL connects the dog's tibia (bone below the knee) to the femur (bone above the knee).
The main difference is that a dog's CCL is always under pressure due to their back legs' angle when they stand, walk, or run.
Symptoms of an ACL Injury in Dogs
It's important to note that because people are accustomed to ACL injuries, a dog's ACL is commonly referred to as a CCL injury.
The most common signs of an ACL injury in dogs are:
- Lameness and limping in the hind legs.
- Stiffness, often most noticeable after rest, following exercise.
- Difficulty rising up off the floor or jumping.
If your dog suffers from a mild ACL injury, it is likely to worsen over time, with symptoms becoming more pronounced. A mild ACL injury will likely lead to a very painful tear if left untreated.
Unfortunately, dogs suffering from a single torn ACL typically begin to favor the non-injured leg during activity. This often leads to the second leg also becoming injured. It is estimated that 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury will soon go on to injure the other knee.
Treating Dog ACL Injuries
Many good treatments can help dogs with ACL injuries. Your vet will look at your dog's lifestyle, age, size, and weight to choose the right one.
Available Treatment Options for a Dog ACL Injury
- Treating an ACL 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. To be effective, a knee brace should be combined with dramatically reduced activity levels, which can be difficult for many dogs.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
- This type of ACL surgery is typically recommended for small to medium-sized dogs weighing less than 50 lbs and involves replacing the torn ligament with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
- With TPLO surgery, the need for the CCL ligament is eliminated by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau (the top section of the tibia), then stabilizing it in a new position with the help of 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.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?
After ACL surgery, dogs recover at different speeds, but it's always a lengthy process. Although your dog might start walking within 24 hours after surgery, complete recovery and getting back to ton normal activities could take 16 weeks or more.
It's important to pay attention to your dog's healing process and follow your vet's advice. Never force your dog to do exercises if they resist, as this can lead to re-injuring the leg.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.