What is the cranial cruciate ligament in dogs?
The cranial cruciate ligament in dogs, (often referred to as the CCL, CrCL, ACL or cruciate) is a strip of tissue connecting the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone). In people, this ligament is known as the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.
Unlike the ACL in people, in dogs, the cruciate ligament is load-bearing because a dog's leg remains bent while they are standing. If your dog's cruciate becomes injured or torn, your dog's knee will become unstable, reducing your pup's ability to run and walk normally and causing pain.
What are the signs of a cruciate injury in dogs?
Symptoms of a cruciate injury in dogs can appear suddenly, however, they more usually develop over a period of a few weeks. The most common signs of a cruciate injury in dogs include:
- Hind leg lameness and limping
- Stiffness after rest, following exercise
- Swelling around the knee
- Difficulty rising and jumping
If your dog has a mildly injured cruciate but continues activities such as long walks, running or jumping, the injury will become more severe and symptoms will become increasingly more pronounced.
Contact your vet if your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above. Many dogs with a single torn cruciate will go on to injure the other hind leg soon afterward, leading to severe mobility issues and pain for your pooch.
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy Surgery
At Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists, if your dog is suffering from a torn cruciate, our Santa Cruz vets may recommend TPLO or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy surgery to treat the injury.
TPLO surgery eliminates the need for the cranial cruciate ligament by reconfiguring the knee.
The process involves making a cut through the tibia (shin bone) from front to back, then rotating the top section (the tibial plateau) backward until the angle between the tibia and femur (thigh bone) is appropriately level. Once the tibial plateau is in the corrected position a metal plate is attached to the bone to help stabilize the two sections as they heal.
Recovery from TPLO Surgery in Dogs
While many dogs will be able to walk on the leg as soon as 24 hours after surgery, (and most will be bearing moderate amounts of weight on the leg within 2 weeks) recovery from a cruciate injury takes time. Expect full recovery from TPLO surgery to take approximately 12-16 weeks.
Following your veterinarian's post-operative instructions will help your dog to avoid re-injuring the leg while it is healing. Your dog should not be allowed to run or jump after TPLO surgery until the knee has had adequate time to heal. Typically, dogs can return to full physical activity approximately 6 months after TPLO surgery.
If your dog jumped after TPLO surgery, contact your vet to discuss whether an examination is recommended.
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.