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).
One of the primary differences between a person's ACL and a dog's CCL is that due to the angle of the dog's back legs when they are standing, walking, or running their CCL is always load-bearing.
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
There are several effective treatments available for dogs diagnosed with ACL injuries. When determining the best treatment for your dog's injury, your vet will take your dog's lifestyle and energy level into consideration, as well as your dog's age, size, and weight.
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?
Some dogs will recover more quickly than others following ACL surgery. However, recovery from ACL surgery is always a long process. While your dog may be able to walk as soon as 24 hours following surgery, expect a full recovery and a return to normal activities to take 16 weeks or longer.
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 for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.