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 Weldon Spring 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.

The cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) is a connective tissue that connects your dog's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee) (bone above the knee). While there are some differences between a human's ACL and a dog's CrCL, the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) is frequently mistaken for a dog's ACL.

One crucial difference between a person's ACL and your dog's CrCL is that in a dog 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 are common among athletes, especially basketball and soccer players. Humans are more likely to sustain these injuries as a result of an acute trauma caused by a sudden movement, such as a jump or a 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 has a single torn ACL, you may notice that they begin to favor the leg that is not injured during activity. This frequently results in a second-knee injury. It is estimated that 60% of dogs who suffer a single ACL injury will also suffer a second knee injury.

Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments

If your dog has an ACL injury, there are a variety of treatment options available, including knee braces and surgery. Your veterinarian will consider your dog's age, size, and weight, as well as his lifestyle and energy level when determining the best treatment for his injury.

There are several options for ACL surgery in dogs; however, the only non-surgical options for dog ACL injuries are total crate rest combined with pain medications and knee braces.

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

  • The torn cruciate ligament is replaced with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint in this surgery. Small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50 pounds are usually the only ones who need ACL surgery.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

  • Cutting and flattening the tibial plateau, then stabilizing it in a new position with a plate and screws, TPLO is a popular and very successful orthopedic surgery that works to eliminate the need for the cranial cruciate ligament.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement - TTA

  • By cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and stabilizing it in its new position with a stainless steel metal plate, TTA surgery also eliminates the need for the cranial cruciate ligament.

Dog Knee Brace

  • In some dogs, using a knee brace to treat an ACL injury is a non-surgical option that may help to stabilize the knee joint. A knee brace gives the ligament time to scar over and repair itself by providing support. When combined with restricted activity, using a knee brace to treat CrCL injuries may be effective in some dogs.

Dog ACL Surgery Recovery

Recovery from an ACL injury in your dog, regardless of the treatment you choose, is a long process. Expect your dog to be out of commission for at least 16 weeks before returning to normal. Your dog should be running and jumping like its old self about a year after surgery.

To avoid re-injury after ACL surgery for dogs, make sure to closely follow your veterinarian's instructions and attend regular follow-up appointments so your vet can track your dog's 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 Tender Care Animal Hospital vets to book an examination for your canine companion.