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CCL Surgery in Dogs

Whether from repeated use or sudden injury, torn ligaments can cause a great deal of pain for your dog and require treatment to heal. Here, our vets in Picayune share the causes and signs of a CCL injury and how surgery can help your dog get moving again.

What is the cranial cruciate ligament?

The short answer is that the CCL or cranial cruciate ligament in dogs is much like our ACL. This ligament is one of two in your dog's leg that works to connect the shin bone to the thigh bone and allow for proper movement of the knee.

There are two common ways of injuring the CCL. Either through normal wear and tear over time or through If your pooch has an injured cruciate and continues to jump, run, and play then the injury is likely to become much more severe and symptoms will become more painful and pronounced.

How does a CCL injury happen in dogs?

Your dog's knees are load-bearing at all times, so taking precautions to keep the joints strong and to protect against injury is crucial.

While you can provide your dog with supplements and a diet to support joint and tissue health, cruciate injuries (or CCL injuries as they are sometimes called) can happen without warning and can cause your dog a great deal of discomfort.

When your pup is suffering from a torn CCL, the pain arises from the knee's instability and a motion called 'tibial thrust'.

Tibial thrust is a sliding motion caused by the transmission of weight up your dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee, causing the tibia to 'thrust' forward about the dog's thigh bone (femur). This forward thrust movement happens because the top of the tibia is sloped, and your pup's injured CCL is unable to prevent the unwanted movement from occurring.

What are the signs of a CLL injury in dogs?

Movement will become quite difficult for dogs who have sustained a CCL injury. If this happens you may notice:

  • Difficulties rising off of the floor
  • Limping in their hind legs
  • Stiffness following exercise

If you notice a distinct event that causes your dog to appear injured immediately, contact an emergency vet right away.

Treating Injuries with CCL Surgery

If your dog experiences a CCL injury, they will need veterinary care to treat it. These injuries do not repair themselves.

As soon as the signs of a CCL injury appear, it's important to bring your dog to see a vet and have the condition diagnosed so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe and more painful.

If your dog has a torn CCL your vet is likely to recommend one of three knee surgeries to help your dog to return to an active lifestyle.

TPLO: Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

TPLO is more complicated than ELSS surgery but typically very successful in treating CCL injuries in dogs. The goal of this surgery is to address tibial thrust without the need for the CCL. The procedure involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau), and then rotating the tibial plateau to change its angle. A metal plate is then added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. You will notice an improvement over a few months.

TTA: Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

TTA is much like TPLO surgery in dogs, but not as commonly used. This knee surgery involves surgically separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone, and then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section up and forward. This helps to prevent much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring. A bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has had sufficient time to heal. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) are excellent candidates for this type of CCL surgery.

ELSS / ECLS: Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization

This CCL surgery is typically used to treat dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds and works by preventing the tibial thrust with a surgically placed suture. The suture stabilizes your pup's knee by pulling the joint tight and preventing the front-to-back sliding of the tibia so that the CCL has time to heal, and the muscles surrounding the knee have an opportunity to regain their strength. Smaller breeds of dogs tend to recover quickly from ELSS/ECLS surgery.

Which CCL surgery will my dog need?

The surgery that suits your dog will vary depending on factors such as their size, age, and the injury itself. Your vet will share information about the recommended surgery and what you can expect both during and after.

CCL Surgery in Dogs: Recovery

The recovery from any surgical treatment takes time, and for CCL repair it can be a long process. With TPLO surgery, many dogs can walk as soon as 24 hours after surgery however, a full recovery and a return to normal activities will take 12 - 16 weeks or more. It is essential to follow your vet's post-operative instructions to help your dog return to normal activities as quickly and safely as possible without risking re-injury. Allowing your dog to return to an active lifestyle too soon after surgery could lead to injuring the knee all over again.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your dog showing signs of a possible limb or ligament issue? Contact our Picayune vets to have your pup diagnosed and treated.

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