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What is the difference between an anterior cruciate and cranial cruciate ligament?

Dogs have a similar knee anatomy to a human, but with some key differences.  Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in people are quite common. Dogs have the same ligament, only with a slightly different name (cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL).  The CCL in dogs has the same job as the ACL in people – that is, to stabilize the knee and to help it work smoothly like a hinge.

How did my dog tear his cruciate ligament?

People typically injure their ACL with a sudden, traumatic event. While this can also be the case in dogs, dogs often have an underlying predisposition.

There are several causes of CCL injuries in dogs.  Although acute traumatic injuries do happen, it is very common that the CCL has been slowly degraded over time, resulting in an on-and-off lameness over several months, culminating in a suddenly worse lameness.  Reasons for the chronic degeneration of the ligament include genetics, obesity, and issues unique to each dog’s anatomy (namely the tibial plateau angle, or slope), among others.

Can a dog cruciate injury heal itself?

Although a small percentage of dogs will improve with non-surgical management and have an acceptable outcome, most dogs will have the best outcome through surgical intervention.  Once the CCL tears, the knee becomes mechanically unstable.  This not only is painful but it begins the process of arthritis and can lead to other painful issues such as a torn meniscus.  Additionally, due to the anatomy of a dog’s knee, a damaged CCL is not able to heal on its own, and the knee will remain unstable.

How do I know which cruciate surgery is best for my dog?

Many different surgical approaches have been developed to help dogs with a torn CCL.  The most common surgeries are a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA), or a lateral fabellar suture/extracapsular repair.  Surgery for a damaged CCL is not a one-size-fits-all approach.  Our veterinarians will work with you in choosing the surgery that is most likely to give your dog the best outcome.

In mid-size to large breed dogs a TPLO is most commonly performed and this surgery is performed here at City Dog Vet.  In many small and toy breed dogs a lateral fabellar suture can be performed, but even in some small breed dogs there may be some anatomic findings that warrant pursuing a TPLO.

Our veterinarians will be happy to discuss the details of the various options and help you find the best approach for your dog and your personal situation.

-Dr. Andy Stevens

Our City Dog Vet staff will perform a thorough orthopedic exam and discuss options if your dog may have a cruciate ligament tear.

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