Because a dog's knee is weight-bearing at all times and they tend to spend a good chunk of time running around, orthopedic injuries can easily occur. Here, our Brooklyn vets discuss CCL injuries and how surgery can help to get dogs moving comfortably again.
What is the CCL or Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs?
In your dog's knee, there is connective tissue that is attached to both the upper and lower parts of the leg. It connects a dog’s tibia to the femur above that when torn, results in partial or complete joint instability, pain, and immobility. CCL ruptures are the result of a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in a dog's stifle (knee). The human equivalent would be a torn ACL, which commonly happens to athletes.
What are the signs of a CCL injury in dogs?
The majority of chronic onset CCL injuries in dogs happen because of aging tissue and regular use. This makes it more common in dogs over the age of five.
Younger dogs are more likely to experience sudden acute onset CCL ruptures. These tears are caused by injuries a dog will sustain just running around living their daily lives.
Some of the signs of CCL injuries in dogs include:
- Crepitus (crackling noise of bones rubbing against each other)
- Decreased range of motion
- Hind leg extension while sitting
- Pain when the joint is touched
- Lack of motivation to exercise
- Restricted mobility
- Stiffness after exercising
- Thick/firm feel of the joint
- Weight shifted to one side of the body while standing
- "Pop" sound when walking
If you notice any of the listed symptoms above, contact your vet and schedule an examination for your dog.
Are there any non-surgical treatment options for CCL injuries?
In dogs under 30 pounds, there is a possibility of recovery that doesn't require surgery through ample rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical rehabilitation. This is dependent upon the size of your pet, their overall health, and the severity of your dog’s CCL injury.
Your vet will examine your dog and inform you of the best course of action for your canine companion.
Surgical Treatment for a CCL Injury
CCL surgery is the most common surgery performed in dogs and is estimated to make up about 85% of all orthopedic surgeries performed every year on dogs. Given that this is such a common injury, several procedures have been developed over the years to repair the ligament. Each technique has its pros and cons, so it is important to discuss the options with your veterinarian to determine which procedure would be best for your dog's situation.
Here are some of the most common treatment options for a CCL injury in dogs:
Arthroscopy is the least invasive means of visualizing the structures of the stifle, the cranial, and caudal cruciate ligaments. The technique offers enhanced visualization and magnification of the joint structures. The technology developed for this procedure allows for minimal surgical incisions for partial CCL and meniscus tears. This method may not be an option for completely torn ligaments.
Lateral Suture or Extracapsular
Often recommended for small to medium-sized dogs, this surgery stabilizes the stifle (knee) through the use of sutures placed on the outside of the joint. This is one of the most frequently performed surgeries for this type of injury and is usually performed on dogs that weigh under 50 pounds.
TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement)
TTA is a method of surgery that corrects the need for the CCL by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and stabilizing it in its new position using a plate. If TTA surgery is recommended for your pup then the vet intends on replacing the ligament entirely to treat the issue.
TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy)
TPLO surgery is becoming increasingly popular and is the best option for larger dog breeds. The procedure entails cutting and leveling the tibial plateau. From there, the surgeon stabilizes the tibial plateau using a plate and screws. This surgery also eliminates the need for the ligament.
CCL Surgery in Dogs: Post-Op Recovery
Regardless fo the type of surgery performed, you will need to take great care to provide your dog with the appropriate aftercare. The recovery period will be crucial to the success of the procedure. The first 12 weeks following surgery are a crucial time for recovery and rehabilitation. Limited exercise and encouraging your pup to begin using their leg are keys to a successful recovery.
At two weeks post-operatively, you can gradually increase the length of your dog’s leashed walks.
By the eighth week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform some of their basic daily living activities.
After ten weeks post-operatively, your vet will take x-rays to assess how the bone is healing. Your dog will be able to gradually be able to resume normal activities. We at Heart of Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog’s recovery.
Whatever rehabilitation facility you attend should have experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries such as the TPLO. Some dogs have also experienced positive results via acupuncture treatments and laser therapy.
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.