Your dog tearing their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) can be a very painful and stressful experience that may require surgery. Today, our San Diego vets help explain what can cause this injury as well as the treatment options for repairing a CCL injury.
CCL Injuries in Dogs
Keeping your canine companion's knees healthy and pain-free is essential to providing your dog with an active lifestyle.
However, while there are several high-quality dog foods and supplements that may help keep your dog's joints in good condition, cruciate injuries (or ACL injuries as they are sometimes called) can happen without warning and can cause your dog a great deal of discomfort.
A Dogs CCL
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg that works to connect the shin bone to the thigh bone and allow for proper movement of the knee.
Injury leading to knee pain that stems from a torn CCL can occur suddenly during exercise, but will often gradually develop over some time. If your pooch has an injured cruciate and continues to jump, run and play then the injury is likely to become much more severe and symptoms will become more painful and pronounced.
Cause of the Pain
When your pup is suffering from a torn ACL, the pain arises from the knee's instability and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.
Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by the transmission of weight up your dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, causing the tibia to “thrust” forward about the dog's thigh bone (femur). This forward thrust movement happens because the top of the tibia is sloped, and your pup's injured ACL is unable to prevent the unwanted movement from occurring.
Signs of an ACL Injury in Dogs
If your dog is suffering from knee pain due to an injured ALC they will not be able to run or walk normally and will likely display other symptoms such as:
- Difficulties rising off of the floor
- Limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
If you notice a distinct event that causes your dog to appear injured immediately, contact an emergency vet right away.
Treatment for Dogs With CCL Injuries
ACL injuries typically do not heal themselves. If your pup is showing signs of a torn CCL it's important to see a vet and have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe and more painful.
If your dog has a torn ACL your vet is likely to recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog to return to an active lifestyle.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery but typically very successful in treating ACL injuries in dogs. This surgery option aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's ACL. The procedure involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau to change its angle. A metal plate is then added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Over several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA is similar to TPLO but tends not to be used as often to treat ACL injuries in dogs. This knee surgery involves surgically separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone, then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section up and forward. This helps to prevent much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has had sufficient time to heal. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) are excellent candidates for this type of ACL surgery.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
This ACL surgery is typically used to treat dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds and works by preventing the tibial thrust with a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ACL has time to heal, and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength. ELSS surgery is fairly quick and uncomplicated with an impressive success rate in smaller dogs.
Choosing a Surgical Procedure
Following an examination of your dog's physical state by your vet, they will recommend the best option for your pup after considering their age, size, medical history, etc.
No matter which treatment option you decide upon, healing from ACL surgery is a long process. With TPLO surgery, many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery however, a full recovery and a return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or more. It is essential to follow your vet's post-operative instructions to help your dog to return to normal activities as quickly and safely as possible without risking re-injury. Allowing your dog to return to an active lifestyle too soon after surgery could lead to injuring the knee all over again.
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.