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ACL Injuries in Dogs

ACL Injuries in Dogs

ACL or CCL injuries are relatively common in dogs because of the anatomy of their legs. In this blog, our Natick vets talk about ACL injuries in dogs and the different treatment options that might be available to help these knee injuries.


In humans, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue located in the center of the knee.

In dogs, this connective tissue is known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and it connects your furry friend's tibia (bone below the knee) to their femur (bone above the knee). So, although there are differences, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is your dog's ACL.

One key difference between a human's ACL and a dog's CCL is that for dogs, this ligament is always load-bearing because their knee is always bent when they stand.

Differences Between CCL Injuries in Dogs & ACL Injuries in Humans

ACL injuries in people are most common among athletes. These injuries are typically the result of an acute trauma stemming from a sudden movement such as a jump or change of direction (think of basketball players in action). In dogs, CCL injuries often develop gradually, getting progressively worse with continuous activity, until a tear occurs.

Recognizing ACL Injuries in Dogs

The most common signs of CCL injuries in dogs are:

  • Difficulty rising and jumping.
  • Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.

Continued activity on a mildly injured leg will make the injury worse and the symptoms become more pronounced.

Dogs with a single torn CCL usually start favoring the non-injured leg during activity, which often causes an injury in the second knee. About 60% of dogs that have a single CCL injury will go on to injure the other knee shortly afterward.

Treating Dogs With ACL Injuries

If your pup is diagnosed with a cruciate injury, there may be various treatment options available which could range from knee braces to surgery. When selecting the best treatment method for your dog's injury, your vet will consider your pet's age, size, weight, lifestyle, and energy level.

Different Treatment Methods

Knee Brace

Treating a CCL injury with a knee brace is a non-surgical option that might help stabilize the knee joint in some dogs. The support provided by a knee brace gives the ligament time to scar over and repair itself. Knee braces may be successful in treating CCL injuries in some dogs if it's used in combination with restricted activity.

Extracapsular Repair - Lateral Suture

This surgery consists of replacing the torn cruciate ligament with an artificial ligament on the outside of the joint. This ACL surgery is typically recommended for small to medium-sized dogs that weigh less than 50lbs.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy - TPLO

TPLO is a popular surgery that is typically very successful. It works to eliminate the need for the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) 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 CCL 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.

Recovery for Dogs After ACL Surgery

Regardless of the treatment used to treat your dog's injured ACL, the recovery process is generally slow. Expect your dog to need 16 weeks or more to fully heal and get back to their usual function. A year after surgery, your dog will be running and jumping like their old self again.

To speed your pup's recovery from an ACL injury, follow your vet's advice and never force your dog to do exercises if they resist. To avoid re-injury, be sure to follow your vet's instructions closely and attend regular follow-up appointments so your veterinarian can monitor your pet's recovery.

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.

If you think your dog is suffering from an ACL injury, contact our Natick vets immediately and schedule an appointment.

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Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Natick companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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