ACL Surgery For Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

Have you seen your normally active dog get a little slower and favor one leg? Have your usual long walks been shortened due to your dog limping? 

If this seems to be the case, you may want to pay the vet a visit to evaluate your pup. After a thorough evaluation, if your dog’s vet suspects a torn ACL, surgery may be recommended. 

WINPRO Pet understands your concerns and is here to help. Let’s dive into what a dog ACL is, how it can be injured, and a few common surgical options. 

What Is an ACL in Dogs?

Dogs have a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) as the equivalent to the human ACL. However, people use these terms interchangeably, as they have similar functions. The only reason they are called different names is the difference in the anatomy between a human and a dog.

What Can Lead to a Dog Needing ACL Surgery?

Although ACL surgery is common in people, it may come as a shock that dogs with ACL problems may need surgery as well. 

It is very common for people to need ACL surgery because of trauma to their ACL, resulting in a tear. ACL injuries in humans are fairly common in sports like basketball and soccer. 

ACL injuries are fairly common in dogs, too, especially in hunting dogs. While trauma resulting in a tear can happen, it is more common for a dog's CCL to deteriorate slowly. Besides normal wear and tear, this deterioration can be caused by several different reasons.

The Breed

Certain breeds are more at risk for CCL issues. Larger dog breeds represent 61% of CCL surgeries. Labs, Poodles, German Shepards, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers have some of the highest rates of CCL issues. 

While there is nothing you can do to change the risk factor, be mindful if your dog is one of these breeds and give your dog the support they need. Keeping your large breed dog at a healthy weight can help them avoid potential ACL problems in the future.

Obesity

Obesity in your pup causes health and CCL problems. The extra pressure on the CCL due to weight can cause serious problems and leads to surgery. 

We all sneak that little extra treat to our cute, furry friend, and while that is fine in moderation, don't overdo it. Make sure your dog is getting the right amount of food for their size. 

Exercise is also an important part of your dog's daily life. When it comes to caring for your dog, maintaining a healthy weight is very important.

How Do I Know If My Dog Needs ACL Surgery?

Dogs can’t tell us if they are in pain. We have to watch for signs that may indicate they are uncomfortable. Signs for a torn ACL may include lameness in the affected leg, limping, or being less active. 

Does your fetch partner move a little slower after a long game? They may be dealing with a torn ACL. If we do suspect our fur baby is in pain, taking them to the vet for a check-up should be a top priority. 

During this visit, your dog’s vet will run a series of tests to determine if there’s an issue with their ligaments. The vet will examine the range of motion, swelling, and look for scarring around the CCL. They will run x-rays on your dog to confirm a torn CCL. 

What Are the Different ACL Surgery Options?

If your vet has confirmed a torn CCL, there are a couple of options you have for your dog. Understanding your options and discussing them with your vet will help you to make the best choice. 

Here are the most common options:

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

The TPLO surgery is the most common surgery recommended by veterinarians for dogs, specifically big breeds, as it has a 95% success rate to return to normal or near normal. 

In this surgery, the top of the tibia is cut and moved to stabilize the knee joint. The surgeon will then support the joint with a metal plate and screws. Usually, the metal plate and screws will not need to be taken out. 

While the success rate for this surgery is high, recovery time is 10-12 weeks, with minimal movement for the first week. While this will be a time for a lot of snuggles with your furry patient, there will be a lot of work for both you and your pet to get them back on their feet.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

TTA is not quite as invasive as TPLO. The surgeon cuts the same tibia area, but not as much, and there is less soft tissue dissection. The bones are supported by an implant made from titanium, which offers better biocompatibility. The success rates are comparable to the TPLO surgery. 

Recovery for your pup will be slightly less than a TPLO surgery. There is about a month of restricted movement, with a slow movement increase until the three-month mark. 

Lateral Fabellotibial Suture (LFS)

The LFS is not recommended for large or medium breeds. It leads to more complications in these sizes but is a great option for smaller dogs. During this surgery, the surgeon will implant medical-grade nylon in place of the CCL. 

While the recovery time is still long, it is still less than that of a TPLO or TTA surgery at eight weeks. Even though the recovery time is shorter, the restrictions and care instructions will be very similar.

Conclusion

A torn ACL in a dog can be very painful and make you unsure of what to do as a dog owner. A dog's CCL is very similar to our ACL and can tear if put under too much pressure. While there are ways to try and prevent CCL tears, like watching your pup's weight, certain breeds are more prone to CCL tears. 

Lucky for us, veterinarians have developed techniques to surgically correct CCL tears and get our beloved furry friends back to their energetic selves.

WINPRO Pet is here for you. Whether you need joint support, recovery support, or calming support leading up to surgery, we have what you need to keep your pet healthy to live a fully active life. 

 

Sources:

Canine cranial cruciate ligament rupture in profile | (nih.gov)

ACL Tears | Veterinary Surgery and Sports Medicine of the Gorge (vssmg.org)

Complications associated with lateral fabellotibial suture surgery for cranial cruciate ligament injury in dogs: 363 cases (1997-2005) | PubMed (nih.gov)