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Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dog & How They Are Treated

Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dog & How They Are Treated

Athletes commonly suffer from CL injuries, but did you know that dogs can also experience a similar type of injury? In today's post, our South Wilton vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs and the surgeries that are performed to treat this painful knee injury. 

Your Dog's Cranial Cruciate Ligament

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue that helps to stabilize the human knee. In contrast, in dogs, this connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL or sometimes CrCL). It connects your dog's tibia (shin bone) to their femur (thigh bone). Your dog's CCL also performs the essential function of stabilizing the knee joint.

Although there are some similarities between your ACL and your dog's CCL, they work differently. The primary difference is that the CCL is always load-bearing in dogs, unlike the ACL in humans, due to the fact that a dog's knee always remains bent when standing. 

Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CCL Injuries in Dogs

ACL injuries in people usually occur as a result of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement, while CCL injuries in dogs tend to come on gradually and worsen with activity until a tear occurs. Symptoms of CL injuries in dogs include stiffness, difficulty rising from the floor, struggling to jump onto furniture or climb stairs, hind less lameness, and limping. 

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

Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs

There are a number of symptoms that are commonly seen in dogs with ACL injuries, including:

  • Stiffness (particularly after rest, following exercise).
  • Difficulty rising off the floor.
  • Struggling to jump up on furniture or climb stairs.
  • 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 ACL 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 ACL injury will go on to injure the other knee soon afterward. 

Treatment Options for Dogs Suffering From ACL Injuries

There are a number of treatment options available for dogs suffering from ACL injuries, although, in most cases, surgery is the best and most effective option. When determining the right treatment for your dog, your vet will consider your dog's age, size, weight, lifestyle, and energy level. 

Knee Brace

One option for treating a CCL injury with a knee brace, which can help stabilize the knee joint and provide support for the ligament to heal 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

Alternatively, surgery may be necessary for some dogs. The extracapsular repair, or lateral suture, involves replacing the damaged ligament ith an artificial one on the outside of the joint. This is generally recommended for smaller breeds.  

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, 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 ACL Surgery

Regardless of the treatment chosen, recovery is a slow process that could take up to 16 weeks or longer to heal from surgery and return to normal function completely. A year after surgery, your dog will be running and jumping like their old self again.

To help 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.

Does your dog have an ACL injury that requires treatment? Our South Wilton vets are here to help. Contact South Wilton Veterinary Group today to book an examination for your canine companion.

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