Many of us are aware that ACL injuries are common in athletes, but because of the anatomy of your dog's leg, this painful knee injury is also common in dogs. Our Beacon veterinarians explain the signs and symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs, as well as the treatments available.
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 in dogs that connects the tibia (bone below the knee) to the femur (bone above the knee) (bone above the knee). While there are some differences between the ACL of humans and the CrCL of dogs, the CrCL is frequently mistaken for the ACL of dogs.
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 a sudden movement, such as a jump or a change of direction.
In dogs, ACL injuries tend to occur gradually, becoming progressively worse with the 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 injury to the second knee. 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 several 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.
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
- The torn cruciate ligament is replaced with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint in this surgery. Small to medium-sized dogs 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 can help 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, treating CrCL injuries with a knee brace may be successful 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 a year after surgery.
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.