Do you suspect your dog has injured his knee? The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, can be found in the knee joint and connects the back of the femur with the front of the tibia. In dogs, it is often referred to as the CCL, cranial cruciate ligament, and it is responsible for two things -- keeping the tibia firmly in place below the femur, and stabilizing the knee joint, so that your canine companion can run, jump and enjoy a normal, active lifestyle.
Unfortunately, dog ACL injuries are quite common, and certain breeds and types of canine seem to be at greater risk of developing degeneration and damage to this important element of the knee joint.
One of main causes of damage is twisting the hind leg. This can happen when your dog runs and skids on slippery flooring or ice, or if they are hit with an impact such as being run into by a car. In either scenario, too much tension is placed on the ligament, causing it to tear.
Obesity is another common cause of ACL injury, as too much strain on the knee causes the ligament to degenerate, become weaker and eventually rupture.
Some of the breeds that are more likely to develop problems with this joint include Bichon Frise, Saint Bernard, Labrador, and Rottweiler.
If your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL injury, the first thing that we might do will be to tell you to limit your pet’s activity. This will help minimize further stress and strain on the joint until further treatment can be undertaken.
Your dog may also be prescribed some NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which will reduce swelling and associated pain.
If the ligament is completely torn, then surgical repair will almost certainly be necessary. There are three different surgeries that are most commonly used. These are:
Lateral Suture Technique This is the most conventional surgery for dog ACL tears and involves placing a synthetic suture into the knee which acts as the ligament and gives stability to the joint.
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) This procedure requires a surgeon with specialized training and involves cutting the tibia so that it can heal at a different angle. This changes the overall geometry of the joint which in turn means that less stress is placed onto the knee.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) This ACL surgery also requires a surgeon with specific training – in this case an orthopedic specialist. In TPLO surgery, the tibia is cut, moved and then reattached using plates and screws. This reinforces the joint and is particularly suitable for heavier dogs.
If your dog is suffering from a severely damaged or torn anterior cruciate ligament, alleviating his pain and getting him back on his feet will be an immediate priority.
To give the correct advice, your vet will need to carry out a physical examination of your pet. This often includes taking x-rays of his knees to properly assess the full extent of the damage, as well as identifying if there are any signs of arthritis or bone fragments that may have broken away when the ligament ruptured.
If you believe your dog has problems with his ACL, seek professional veterinary advice as soon as possible. With the right care and attention, your canine companion will be able to enjoy full mobility and an active lifestyle once again.