Often called a dog's ACL or cruciate, the CCL (or cranial cruciate ligament) joins the shin and thigh of your dog's leg and can become painfully injured if torn. Here, our Torrance vets explain the different surgical treatment options used to treat a torn ACL in a dog.
What is the ACL, CCL or Cruciate?
In a human's knee there is a thin piece of connective tissues called the AC (or anterior cruciate ligament) that connects our tibia to our femur, helping our knees to function efficiently. You dog also has a connective piece of tissue joining their leg bones, but instead of an ACL, this is called a CCL (or, cranial cruciate ligament).
Although the dog's CCL and the person's ACL function somewhat differently, pet owners and vets will often refer to the dog's cranial cruciate ligament as the dog's ACL, CCL or 'cruciate' interchangeably.
How did my dog's ACL become injured?
CCL, or CCL, injuries in dogs will generally onset gradually rather than all of a sudden. They will also become progressively worse with continued activity. For many dogs, there isn't a single moment where their injury suddenly occurs. Instead, it's more likely that their symptoms appear slowly as they continue to exercise as normal.
What are the signs of ACL injuries in dogs?
A dog that is suffering from a torn ACL will not be able to walk normally and will experience significant pain. If your dog has torn their ACL you may notice that they are limping in their hind legs, showing signs of stiffness following exercise, and having difficulties jumping or rising up off of the floor.
What happens when a dog's ACL is torn or injured?
When your dog's CCL has been injured, their tibia will slide forward in relation to their femur. This forward motion is called a 'positive drawer sign' and results in knee instability . This can lead to osteoarthritic damage to your pup's cartilage and the surrounding bones.
What treatments are available for a torn ACL in dogs?
If your dog is showing signs of an ACL injury it's important to see a vet to have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. Many dog's with a single ACL injury will often go on to injury the other leg soon afterwards.
Surgery Options for Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization - ELSS / ECLS
This surgical treatment works by counteracting the sliding forward of the dog's shinbone ('tibial thrust') with a specifically placed suture.
The sliding motion of the tibia moving forward us caused by the transmission of your dog's weight to their sibia and across their knee. This forward thrust happened because the top of the tibia is sloped and your dog's injured ACL would normally be able to hold back the forward force. But, with an injury, this is no longer possible and abnormal movement occurs.
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization corrects tibia thrust by “anchoring” the tibia to the femur with suture placed by your dog's surgeon. The suture stabilizes the dog's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the ACL has an opportunity to heal itself, and the muscles surrounding the knee have a chance to regain their strength.
ELSS surgery is fairly quick and uncomplicated with a good success rate in small to medium sized dogs. ELSS surgery can also be less expensive than other ACL surgical treatment options. Long-term success of ELSS surgery varies in dogs of different sizes and activity levels. Speak to your vet to find out if ELSS surgery is an option for your injured dog.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO
ANother surgical option we will explain for treating your dog's injured CCL is known as TPLO or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy. This surgery is a bit more complicated than ELSS surgery and aims to reduce your dog's tibial thrust without having to rely on their ACL.
This surgery involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (tibial plateau), then rotating the tibial plateau in order to change its angle. Finally a metal plate is added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Over the course of several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen.
Full recovery from TPLO surgery in dogs takes several months however some improvement can be seen within just days of the procedure. Following your vet's post-surgery instructions and restricting your dog's activities, are essential for successful healing. TPLO surgery in dogs has a good long-term prognosis, and re-injury is uncommon.
How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?
Some dogs will be able to recover much quicker than other from surgery on their ACL or CCL, however, remover from CCL surgery is always a long process.
Many dogs are able to walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery, but a full recovery and a return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or possibly longer.
It is essential to follow your vet's instructions and pay attention to your dog's healing progress. It's important not to rush exercise following ACL surgery. Never force your dog to do exercises if they resist as this can lead to re-injuring the leg.