Many of us are aware that ACL injuries are common in athletes, but due to the anatomy of your dog's leg, this painful knee injury is also common in dogs. Our Pico Rivera veterinarians describe the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs, as well as the surgeries used to treat this condition.

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 known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs, and it connects your pet's tibia (bone beneath the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). While there are some distinctions between the ACL of humans and the CCL of dogs, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is commonly regarded as the ACL of dogs.

One crucial difference between a person's ACL and your dog's CCL is that in a dog 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 very common in athletes such as basketball players and soccer players. These injuries commonly occur in humans as a result of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement, such as a jump or change of direction.

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, you may notice them favoring the non-injured leg during activity. This frequently results in a second knee injury. It is estimated that 60% of dogs who sustain a single ACL injury will later injure the second knee.

Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments

If your dog has an ACL injury, there are several treatment options available, ranging from knee braces to surgery. Your veterinarian will consider your dog's age, size, and weight, as well as his or her lifestyle and energy level when determining the best treatment for your pup's injury.

When it comes to ACL surgery for dogs, there are several options available; however, the only non-surgical treatments for dog ACL injuries are total crate rest combined with pain medications and knee braces.

You might be wondering if a dog can live with a torn ACL. Regardless of whether they can or not, it's always advisable to seek treatment.

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

  • The torn cruciate ligament is replaced with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint during this surgery. This ACL surgery for dogs is usually reserved for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 pounds.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

  • TPLO is a popular and very successful orthopedic surgery that works by cutting and flattening the tibial plateau and then stabilizing it in a new position with a plate and screws to eliminate the need for the cranial cruciate ligament.

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

  • An ACL injury can be treated non-surgically with a knee brace, which 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

Regardless of the treatment you choose for your dog, recovery from an ACL injury is a lengthy process. Expect your dog to be unable to function normally for at least 16 weeks. Your dog should be running and jumping like its old self about a year after surgery.

To avoid re-injury after ACL surgery for dogs, make sure to closely follow your veterinarian's instructions and attend regular follow-up appointments so your vet 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.

Is your pooch in need of ACL dog surgery? Call our Pico Rivera Animal Hospital vets to book an examination for your canine companion.