Did you know your dog can tear their ACL just like their human friends? Read on to find out more from our Concord vets on how ACL injuries are treated in dogs.
What is the ACL in Dogs Called?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees which 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 their 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.
The Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries
ACL injuries are particularly common in athletes. These injuries generally occur due to an acute trauma stemming from a sudden movement such as a change of direction while running or jumping.
Dog CCL injuries typically come on gradually rather than suddenly and tend to become progressively worse with activity.
Symptoms of an ACL Injury in Dogs
It's important to note that, because people are accustomed to ACL injuries, it is common to refer to CCL injuries in dogs as an ACL injuries.
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 off the floor or jumping.
If your dog is suffering from a mild ACL injury, it is likely to become worse over time with symptoms becoming more pronounced. If left untreated a mild ACL injury will likely lead to a very painful tear.
Dogs suffering from a single torn ACL typically begin to favor the non-injured leg during the activity which 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.
How to Treat ACL Injuries in Dogs
There are several effective treatments available for dogs diagnosed with an ACL injury. To determine 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 ACL Treatment Options for Dogs
- 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 50lbs 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.
Recovery Time from ACL Surgery
Some dogs will recover more quickly than others following ACL surgery but, recovery from an ACL surgery is always a long process. 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.