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ACL Injuries in Dogs and How to Prevent Them

ACL injuries are commonly seen in human athletes around the world. Today, our Citrus Heights vets explain the symptoms that typically accompany ACL injuries in dogs and how you can help prevent your pup from experiencing injuries such as these.

ACL or CCL, What's The Difference?

In people, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees.

This connective tissue in dogs is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and it connects your pup's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). So, although there are differences, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is your dog's ACL.

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

How Are ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs Different?

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 (think of basketball players in action).  In dogs, CCL injuries tend to come on gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs. 

Some of the Most Common Signs of ACL Injuries in Dogs

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

  • 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 to become more pronounced.

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. Approximately 60% of dogs with a single CCL injury will go on to injure the other knee soon afterward. 

What Happens if Your Vet Determines That Treatment is Necessary

If your pooch has been diagnosed with a cruciate injury, there are a number of treatment options available from knee braces to surgery. 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.  

Some of the Typical Treatment Options for ACL Injuries in Dogs

Knee Braces for Dogs

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 when 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 ACL surgery for dogs is typically recommended for small to medium sized breeds weighing less than 50lbs. 

TPLO or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy 

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

 TTA or Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

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.

What Does Recovery From ACL Surgery for Dogs Look Like?

Regardless of which treatment you decide is best for your dog, recovery from a dog ACL injury is a slow process. Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to have complete healing and return to normal function. A year after surgery your dog will be running and jumping like their old self again.

To speed your pup's recovery from an ACL 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 having symptoms consistent with an ACL injury please contact our Citrus Heights vets as soon as possible to have your dog examined and diagnosed so they can begin treatment quickly.

New Patients Always Welcome

Family Friends Veterinary Hospital is happy to accept new patients! Our vets are passionate about improving the health of Citrus Heights companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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