While many of us are aware that athletes frequently suffer ACL injuries, this painful knee injury is also very common in dogs due to the anatomy of their legs. Our Mechanicsburg veterinarians discuss the symptoms and treatment options for ACL injuries in dogs.
Human's ACL vs Dog's CCL
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our human knees.
This connective tissue is referred to as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs, and it connects the tibia (bone below the knee) to the femur (bone above the knee). While the ACL of humans and the CCL of dogs are distinct, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is frequently referred to as a dog's ACL.
One crucial difference between a person's ACL and your dog's CCL is that in dog's this ligament is load-bearing. This is because their knee is always bent while they are standing.
Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs
ACL injuries are extremely common in people, particularly in athletes such as basketball and soccer players. These injuries typically occur in humans as a result of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement such as a jump or direction change.
In dogs, ACL injuries tend to occur gradually, becoming progressively worse with the activity until a tear occurs and your dog's mobility is affected.
Signs of a Dog ACL Injury
The most common signs of an ACL injury in dogs include:
- Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
- Difficulty rising and jumping.
- Hind leg lameness and limping.
Continued activity on a mildly injured leg will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms will quickly become more pronounced.
If your dog has a single torn ACL, they may begin favoring the uninjured leg during activity. This frequently results in injury to the second knee. It is estimated that 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury will soon develop a second knee injury.
Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments
If your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL injury, a variety of treatment options, ranging from knee braces to surgery, are available. When determining the most appropriate treatment for your puppy's injury, your veterinarian will consider your puppy's age, size, and weight, as well as his or her lifestyle and energy level.
While there are several options for ACL surgery in dogs, the only non-surgical treatment for dog ACL injuries is total crate rest combined with pain medications and knee braces.
Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture
- This procedure involves replacing the torn cruciate ligament on the outside of the joint with an artificial ligament. Typically, this ACL surgery for dogs is reserved for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 pounds.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
- TPLO is a popular and highly successful orthopedic procedure that eliminates the need for the cranial cruciate ligament by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau and then stabilizing it with a plate and screws in a new position.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement - TTA
- TTA surgery also eliminates the need for the cranial cruciate ligament by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and then stabilizing it with a stainless steel metal plate in its new position.
Dog Knee Brace
- Treating an ACL injury non-surgically with a knee brace may help stabilize the knee joint in some dogs. The support provided by a knee brace allows the ligament to heal and scar. When combined with restricted activity, treating CCL injuries with a knee brace may be successful in some dogs.
Dog ACL Surgery Recovery
Whichever treatment you choose, recovering from an ACL injury in your dog is a lengthy process. Expect your dog to take at least 16 weeks to regain normal function. After about a year, your dog should be running and jumping normally again.
To avoid re-injury following ACL surgery in dogs, it is critical to closely follow your veterinarian's instructions and to attend regular follow-up appointments so your veterinarian can monitor your dog's recovery progress.
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.