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A Pet Parent's Guide to ACL Surgery for Dogs

Many of us are aware that athletes frequently fall victim to ACL injuries, but due to the anatomy of your dog's leg, this painful knee injury is also very common in dogs. Our Santa Clarita vets explain the symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs, and the surgeries used to treat this condition. 

Human's ACL vs Dog's CrCL

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our human knees.

In dogs, this connective tissue is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) and it connects your pet's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). While there are some differences between the ACL of humans and the CrCL of dogs, the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) is often considered to be a dog's ACL.

One crucial difference between a person's ACL and your dog's CrCL is that in dog's this ligament is load-bearing. This is because their knee is always bent while they are standing. 

Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CrCL Injuries in Dogs

ACL injuries in people are very common in athletes such as basketball and soccer players. These injuries tend to occur in humans due to an acute trauma resulting from a sudden movement such as a jump or change of direction.

In dogs, ACL injuries tend to occur gradually, becoming progressively worse with activity until a tear occurs and your dog's mobility is affected. 

Signs of a Dog ACL Injury

The most common signs of an ACL injury in dogs include:

  • 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 will quickly become more pronounced.

If your dog is suffering from a single torn ACL you may notice that they begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity. This often leads to the injury of the second knee. It is estimated that 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury soon go on to injure the second knee. 

Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments

If your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL injury, there are a number of treatment options available from knee braces to surgery. When determining the best treatment for your pup's injury, your veterinarian 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 ACL surgery for dogs there are a number of options available, however, when it comes to non-surgical treatments for dog ACL injuries total crate rest combined with pain medications and knee braces are the only options.

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 only recommended for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50lbs. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

  • TPLO is a popular and very successful orthopedic 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 cranial cruciate 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.

Dog Knee Brace

  • Treating n ACL 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 CrCL injuries through the use a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with restricted activity. 

Dog ACL Surgery Recovery

Whichever treatment you choose for your dog recovery from an ACL injury is a long process. Expect your dog to require 16 weeks or longer to return to normal functioning. About a year after surgery your dog should be running and jumping like their old self again.

To avoid re-injury following ACL surgery for dogs, be sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions closely and attend regular follow-up appointments so that your vet can monitor your dog's recovery progress.

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.

Is your pooch in need of ACL dog surgery? Call our Valencia Veterinary Center vets to book an examination for your canine companion.

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