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CCL Surgery & Recovery in Dogs

Trauma or repeated use can lead to your dog experiencing injuries to their limbs. In some cases, this can require a surgical procedure to repair. Here, our vets in Fairhaven discuss the causes and symptoms of a CCL injury, and how surgery can help treat your dog.

What is the CCL?

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.

Injuries to this ligament are fairly common, usually occurring in one of two ways. 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?

Caring for your dog's knees is vital to their health. Their knees are built to be load-bearing at all times, so taking precautions to keep the joints strong and to protect against injury is crucial.

However, while there are several high-quality dog foods and supplements that may help keep your dog's joints in good condition, 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?

Once your dog sustains a CCL injury, it will not be able to easily move around. Some of the ways this is apparent can be seen in:

  • 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.

CCL Surgery in Dogs to Treat Injuries 

CCL injuries typically do not heal themselves. If your pup is showing signs of a torn CCL it's important 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. This surgery option aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's 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. Over several months, your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen.

TTA: Tibial Tuberosity Advancement

TTA is similar to TPLO but tends not to be used as often to treat CCL injuries in dogs. 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. ELSS surgery is fairly quick and uncomplicated with an impressive success rate in smaller dogs.

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 discuss the recommended treatment plan with you and answer any questions that you may have.

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 limping or showing other signs of a joint or tendon issue? Contact our Fairhaven vets to have your pup diagnosed and treated.

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