Due to the anatomy of a dog's leg, ACL injuries are very common for them. Today our Union City vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs as well as the surgeries that can be performed to treat these knee injuries. 

What is an ACL in dogs?

The anterior cruciate ligament is also known as the ACL. In people, it is a thin connective tissue in the middle of the knee. This same connective tissue in dogs is called the cranial cruciate ligament. Otherwise known as the CCL. It connects your pup's tibia to its femur. Although there are differences, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is your dog's equivalent of an ACL.

One main difference between a person's ACL and your pup's CCL is that, for dogs, this ligament is always load bearing since your pet's knee is always bent when standing. 

In dogs, CCL injuries tend to come on gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs. 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. 

How can dogs injure their CCL?

Dogs can injure their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) through sudden twisting movements, such as when running or playing. Additionally, obesity and aging can also contribute to the weakening of the ligament, making it more susceptible to injury.

Signs of CCL Injuries in Dogs

The most common signs of a CCL injury in dogs are:

  • Difficulty rising and jumping.
  • Stiffness after rest or exercise.
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.

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

Approximately 60% of dogs with a single CCL injury will go on to injure the other knee soon afterward. Dogs suffering from a single torn CCL will typically begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity which commonly leads to the injury of the second knee. 

Diagnosing a CCL Injury in Dogs

Vets typically diagnose a CCL injury in dogs through a physical examination, which may include manipulating the affected leg to check for instability. They may also recommend X-rays or other imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the injury. In some cases, vets may perform a joint tap or arthroscopy (examining the joint with a small camera) to further evaluate the damage to the ligament.

Treating CCL Injuries in Dogs

When determining the best treatment for your dog's injury, your vet will take your dog's age, size and weight into consideration as well as your pup's lifestyle and energy level. If your pooch has been diagnosed with a cruciate injury, there are a number of treatment options available, from knee braces to surgery.

Treatment Options

The following are some of the most common treatments for a CCL injury in dogs.

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 if 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 CCL surgery for dogs is typically recommended for small to medium sized breeds weighing less than 50 pounds. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

TPLO is a popular and very successful surgery that works to eliminate the need for the cranial cruciate ligament 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 CCL Surgery

Regardless of which treatment is best for your dog, recovery from a CCL injury is a slow process. Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to heal and return to normal activities. But after surgery, your dog will be running and jumping like their old self again.

To speed your pup's recovery from an CCL 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.

If your dog is showing signs of an CCL injury, contact our Union City vets. Our vets can examine your dog and provide some treatment options.