ACL Injury in Dogs

Injuries to the legs of your canine companion can happen easily as they are out and running around. In some cases, this can result in a torn CCL (cranial cruciate ligament or dog ACL). Here, our East Setauket vets talk about the signs of an ACL injury in dogs, how it will affect your pup, and what can be done to treat it.

What is an ACL injury in dogs?

Just like our knees, your dog has a piece of connective tissue helping it to move. In people, this is called an ACL while in dogs it's the CCL or cranial cruciate ligament. Even though it is the CCL, we still commonly refer to this tissue in dogs as the ACL as well.

This connective tissue connects your pup's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). The main difference between a dog's knee and a human knee is that in dogs, they are always bent and therefore always loadbearing.

Symptoms of Dog ACL Injuries

The most common symptoms that are seen in dogs experiencing  an ACL injury are:

  • Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
  • Difficulty rising and jumping.
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.

If you think that your dog has suffered from an ACL injury then you should put them on crate rest as soon as possible and call your vet to book an examination.

Can a dog live with a torn ACL?

Having a torn ACL in dogs treated right away is crucial. This is because they may begin to favor the healthy resulting in overuse and injury.

There are several different treatment options for dogs with ACL/CCL injuries. 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.  

When it comes to treating an ACL injury in dogs, the most common forms of treatment are:

Knee Brace For Stabilization

Depending on the severity of the injury, your vet may be able to recommend a non-invasive treatment method such as stabilization using a knee brace. These are designed to help hold the knee and connective tissues in place throughout healing. The support provided by a knee brace gives the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CCL injuries through the use of a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with restricted activity. 

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

With this surgical procedure, an artificial ligament will be used as a replacement for the torn or damaged one. This ACL surgery for dogs is typically recommended for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 lbs. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

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, and 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.

Surgery to Treat a Dog ACL Injury

You will need to expect an intense recovery period after your dog is treated for a torn ACL. No matter which type of treatment is used, your dog will 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.

Has your dog injured their leg potentially causing an ACL injury? Contact our East Setauket vets to book an appointment.