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A Pet Parent's Guide to ACL Surgery for Dogs

A Pet Parent's Guide to ACL Surgery for Dogs

As pet owners, it's important to understand that our furry friends are not immune to injury, especially ACL injuries. This type of knee injury, which is often seen in athletes, can also occur in dogs due to the anatomy of their legs. Our veterinary team at Jackson is here to shed light on the signs and symptoms of CL injuries in dogs and the surgical options available to treat this painful condition.

Human's ACL vs Dog's CrCL

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a delicate band of connective tissue found in the center of the human knee. This important structure plays a crucial role in stabilizing the joint and allowing for smooth movement.

In our furry friends, the equivalent of the ACL is known as the cranial cruciate ligament, or CrCL. This tissue connects the tibia, the bone located below the knee, to the femur, the bone above the knee. 

Although there are some differences between the ACL in humans and the CrCL in dogs, the latter is often referred to as the canine ACL. One of the key differences is the fact that the CrCL in dogs is a weight-bearing ligament, as their knees are always bent when they are standing. This places added stress on the ligament and highlights the importance of maintaining your dog's joint health.

Differences Between ACL Injuries in People and CrCL Injuries in Dogs

Athletes such as basketball and soccer players are all too familiar with ACL injuries, which are alarmingly common in people. These injuries often occur due to a sudden and abrupt movement, like a jump or shift in direction, resulting in an acute trauma.

However, in canines, ACL injuries tend to develop gradually, worsening with each active moment until a tear eventually occurs, hindering your furry friend's mobility.

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 is suffering from a single torn ACL you may notice that they begin favoring the non-injured leg during activity. This often leads to the injury of the second knee. It is estimated that 60% of dogs with a single ACL injury soon go on to injure the second knee. 

Dog ACL Surgery & Treatments

If your furry friend has been diagnosed with an ACL injury, don't worry. There are several treatment options to choose from, including knee braces and surgery. To determine the best course of action for your pooch, your veterinarian will consider factors such as age, size, weight, and lifestyle, as well as their energy level. With the right treatment, your dog can make a full recovery and be back to their playful self in no time.

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

  • This surgery involves replacing the torn cruciate ligament with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint. This ACL surgery for dogs is typically only recommended for small to medium-sized breeds weighing less than 50lbs. 

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

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

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement - TTA

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

Dog Knee Brace

  • Treating n ACL injury with a knee brace is a non-surgical option that may help stabilize some dogs' knee joint. The support provided by a knee brace gives the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Treating CrCL injuries through the use a knee brace may be successful in some dogs when combined with restricted activity. 

Dog ACL Surgery Recovery

Recovering from an ACL injury in dogs can be a lengthy process, with an estimated 16 weeks or more needed for a full recovery. Despite this, with proper care and attention, your furry friend can be back to their playful and energetic self, running and jumping around just like before, within a year of the surgery.

To ensure a successful recovery, following your veterinarian's guidelines and attending all scheduled check-ups is important, giving your dog the best chance to regain mobility and avoid further complications.

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.

Does your furry friend require ACL surgery for their hind legs? Look no further! Call our Jackson Animal Clinic vets today. They will schedule a thorough examination for your beloved companion.

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Jackson Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Jackson companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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