Many people are familiar with ACL injuries in athletes but did you know your dog can also tear their ACL? Read on to find out more from our Rock Springs vets on what the differences are between ACL injuries in dogs and people, and 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.
This connective tissue is known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in dogs. The CCL joins the dog's tibia, which is the bone below the knee, to its femur, which is the bone above the knee, just like the human ACL does.
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.
What are the differences between ACL & CCL injuries?
Athletes are especially prone to ACL injuries. Acute trauma from a sudden movement, such as changing direction while running or jumping, is usually the cause of these injuries.
Dog CCL injuries typically come on gradually rather than suddenly, and tend to become progressively worse with activity.
What are the 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 injury.
The most 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 up off the floor or jumping.
Can a dog live with a torn ACL?
While a dog can live with a torn acl, their quality of life is severely affected. 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.
Regretfully, dogs with a single ACL tear frequently start to favor the leg that is not injured during exercise, which frequently results in damage to the other leg as well. 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury are thought to eventually sprain their other knee.
How are dog ACL injuries treated?
Dogs with an ACL injury have several effective treatment options available. Your veterinarian will consider your dog's age, size, weight, and lifestyle when deciding on the best course of action for treating their injury.
What are the 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. In order 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 50 lbs 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 a stainless steel metal plate.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?
Some dogs will recover more quickly than others following ACL surgery. However, recovery from an ACL surgery is always a long process! While your dog may be able to walk as soon as 24 hours following surgery, expect full recovery and a return to normal activities to take 16 weeks or longer.
It's critical to monitor your dog's recuperation and heed the advice of your veterinarian. When a dog resists an exercise, you should never force them to do it because this could cause the leg to get hurt again.