Dealing with a Dog ACL or CCL Tear

Knee injuries are among the most common injuries in dogs, and ACL tears are the most common canine orthopedic injuries. Although there are breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers, that are more prone to these types of injuries, knee injuries can happen to any dog regardless of breed, weight, or size. Torn Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) and Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) are among the most common orthopedic injuries in dogs.

Common Signs of ACL and CCL Tears include:

dog in wheelchair with injured knee

Signs of a canine cruciate tear include:

  • Sudden pain in the rear leg
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Knee instability
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Inability to support their weight
  • Sitting in an unusual position

When a dog tears their ACL, there is an immediate impact on its mobility. With a canine ACL tear, the dog’s muscles begin to atrophy, arthritis will start, and there is a high risk of tearing their other ACL. If your dog is experiencing any of these signs, you should immediately speak to your veterinarian. Early detection and treatment of ACL and CCL injuries will lower the odds your dog will develop severe arthritis in the future and avoid causing further damage.

Knee Treatment through Surgery

Knee surgery is the most common treatment option to fix the tear and get the dog’s mobile again. With surgical correction of a torn cruciate (ACL), the recovery time to a full function of the knee is often shorter than with a conservative management approach, and the joint will be less likely to develop arthritis in the long term.

After knee surgery, expect your dog to be on strict crate rest with little exercise. After an appropriate amount of time, rehabilitation and structured exercises can be introduced to help strengthen and improve your dog’s range of motion.

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Cruciate Surgery Risks for Dogs

With any surgery, there are risks. TPLO (Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy) surgery has a very high success rate. 90% of dogs return to normal function post-surgery. Post-surgery dogs often begin to use their repaired leg almost immediately and can bear weight on the leg on the day of surgery. Most vets will recommend restricting your dog’s activities for several weeks through crating or keeping your dog in an isolated space.

Although you may begin to see positive results immediately, recovery from TPLO surgery can be a lengthy one. Additionally, 50% to 60% of all dogs who undergo TPLO surgery will tear their opposite knee within the year.

Stifle Brace and Canine Knee Support

Custom dog knee brace for boxer

A custom stifle orthoses or knee brace supports a dog’s knee joint to help keep your dog active as their stifle joint heals. A knee brace works by stabilizing a dog’s femur and tibia bones and minimize the stress placed on the cruciate (CCL).

A knee brace can be worn for additional support after surgery or in some cases as an alternative to surgery. Wearing a knee brace helps reduce a dog’s knee pain, along with inflammation. Once the knee is supported, the dog will find it easier to place equal pressure on both hind limbs so they are not placing too much stress on the healthy hind limb.

Mobility Assistance During Post Surgical Care

Dog wheelchair support for the rear leg

A common post-surgical concern is that additional stress can be placed on the healthy leg as your dog overcompensates during the healing process. The Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair can provide additional support to the healthy leg. Most importantly, using a wheelchair allows your dog to continue to get the exercise they need.

Other wheelchair benefits include increased muscle strength and helping to avoid further injury. Getting your dog mobile again post-surgery will improve your dog’s overall well-being. A wheelchair will allow them to continue to get around while providing the additional support they need to heal. It is important to note that there is an increased chance of developing osteoarthritis with any injury, even one treated by surgery.

4 Ways to Lower the Risk of Arthritis In Your Dog’s Knee

Dogs with knee injuries are at an increased risk of developing severe arthritis in their knee, and you can lower the risk by following these simple steps:

  • Watch your dog’s weight
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise your pet
  • Introduce a daily oral joint supplement to help support healthy tissue in the joints.

Every dog is different, and the recommended course of treatment will vary. Always speak to your veterinarian before deciding on which course of treatment is best for your pet. For the best outcome, always follow your surgeon’s recommended recovery program and ask them if post-surgical rehab therapy is suitable for your dog.

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3 Comments

  1. My small dog has already had an operation on an ACL injury this didn’t work fully but he has some movement however recently he has now had another ACL injury in his other leg he is on medication for the pain but we do not want him to have another operation what is the best wheelchair to buy for him so he can still have exercise

    • Hi Sandy,

      It sounds like your dog would benefit from the Walkin’ Wheels rear wheelchair. This can be used throughout his rehab process and help to stay active. Please call us at 888-253-0777 and we can help answer any questions you may have.

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