ACL Surgery for Dogs with a Torn Cruciate

ACL Surgery for Dogs with a Torn Cruciate

If your dog's cranial cruciate ligament (CCL/ACL) is torn, your Sharpsburg veterinarian may recommend surgery to repair the damage and get your dog back on its feet. The following are three common surgical procedures for treating this type of knee injury in dogs.

ACL Injuries & Your Dog's Knees

Keeping your canine companion's knees healthy and pain-free is essential to providing your dog with an active lifestyle. 

While there are a variety of high-quality dog foods and supplements that can help keep your dog's joints healthy, cruciate injuries (or ACL injuries, as they are sometimes referred to) can occur without warning and can cause significant discomfort to your dog.

What is the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs?

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL, ACL, or cruciate) is one of two ligaments in your dog's leg. It connects the shin bone to the thigh bone and allows the knee to move properly.

Knee pain caused by a torn ACL can occur suddenly during exercise or develop gradually over time. If your dog continues to jump, run, and play with an injured cruciate, the injury is likely to become much more severe, and the symptoms will become more painful and pronounced.

What causes the dog's knee 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 weight being transmitted up your dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, which causes the tibia to "thrust" forward about the dog's thigh bone (femur). This forward thrust movement occurs as a result of the sloped top of the tibia, and your pup's injured ACL is unable to prevent the unwanted movement.

What are the signs and symptoms of ACL injuries in dogs

If your dog is suffering from knee pain due to an injured ACL 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

What treatment is available for ACL injuries in dogs?

Typically, ACL injuries do not heal on their own. If your dog is exhibiting signs of a torn ACL, it is critical to see a veterinarian immediately and have the condition diagnosed and treated before the symptoms become more severe and painful.

If your dog has a torn ACL your vet is likely to recommend one of these three knee surgeries to help your dog to return to an active lifestyle.

ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

This ACL surgery is typically reserved for dogs weighing less than 50 pounds and works by preventing tibial thrust through the placement of a surgical suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by drawing the joint tight and preventing the tibia from sliding forward and backward. This allows the ACL to heal and the muscles surrounding the knee to regain strength. ELSS surgery is relatively simple, with a high success rate in smaller dogs.

TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

While TPLO surgery is more involved than ELSS surgery, it is typically very effective in treating ACL injuries in dogs. This surgical procedure aims to decrease tibial thrust without relying on the ACL of the dog. The procedure entails cutting through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau) completely and then rotating the tibial plateau to alter its angle. The cut bone is then stabilized with a metal plate during the healing process. Your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen over several months.

TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

TTA is similar to TPLO but is not as frequently used in dogs to treat ACL injuries. This procedure involves surgically separating the front section of the tibia from the rest of the bone and then inserting a spacer between the two sections to raise and advance the front section. This helps to prevent the majority of the tibia thrust movement. A bone plate will be inserted to stabilize the front section of the tibia until the bone has healed sufficiently. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the tibia's upper section) are ideal candidates for this type of ACL surgery.

Which type of ACL surgery is right for my dog?

Following a thorough examination of your dog's knee movement and geometry, your veterinarian will consider his or her age, weight, size, and lifestyle before recommending the best course of action.

How long will it take for my dog to recover from ACL surgery?

Whichever treatment option you choose, recovery from ACL surgery is a lengthy process. Many dogs can walk within 24 hours of TPLO surgery, but complete recovery and return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or longer. It is critical to follow your veterinarian's post-operative instructions to assist your dog in returning to normal activities safely and quickly without risk of re-injury. Allowing your dog to resume an active lifestyle too soon after surgery may result in re-injury of the knee.

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.

To find out more about surgery options to treat your dog's ACL injury, contact our Sharpsburg vets today to book a consultation.