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CCL Surgery in Dogs: Diagnosis & Treatment

CCL Surgery in Dogs: Diagnosis & Treatment

Dogs are known for being active. Whether running, jumping or just playing around, accidents and injuries can happen. Our Westfield vets talk about your dog's CCL, how they rupture and what to expect from the surgery to repair this injury.

Dog Biology: What is the CCL exactly?

The CCL is a connective tissue in the knee that not only connects the upper and lower leg together but also helps to stabilize the joint making for smooth and pain-free movement. It connects a dog's tibia to the femur above. When torn, it results in partial or complete joint instability, pain, and immobility. CCL ruptures are the result of a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in a dog's stifle (knee), which is equivalent to the ACL in humans. 

What are the signs of CCL injuries in dogs?

While some CCL tears occur due to injury, most are caused by the ongoing breakdown of tissues as a dog ages. Our vets typically see this occur in dogs that are between the ages of 5 and 7.

Acute onset ruptures are most commonly seen in pups four years or younger. Unfortunately, these types of injuries happen just from your puppy running around, playing and enjoying life.

The symptoms most commonly seen with CCL injuries include:

  • Crepitus (crackling noise of bones rubbing against each other)
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Hind leg extension while sitting
  • Pain when the joint is touched
  • Lack of motivation to exercise
  • Irritability
  • Restricted mobility
  • Stiffness after exercising
  • Swelling/Inflammation
  • Thick/firm feel of the joint
  • Weight shifted to one side of the body while standing
  • "Pop" sound when walking

Treating CCL Injuries Without Surgery

In some cases, typically in small dogs, surgery will not be required. This includes ample rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical rehabilitation. This is dependent upon the size of your pet, their overall health, and the severity of your dog's CCL injury.

Speak with your primary vet or veterinary surgeon to discuss whether or not surgery is right for your pup.

Surgery For a Dog CCL Injury

CCL surgery is the most common surgery performed in dogs and is estimated to make up about 85% of all orthopedic surgeries performed every year on dogs. Given that this is such a common injury, several procedures have been developed over the years to repair the ligament. Each technique has its pros and cons, so it is important to discuss the options with your veterinarian to determine which procedure would be best for your dog's situation. Below are the most common methods of repairing the injury.


Arthroscopy is the least invasive means of visualizing the structures of the stifle, the cranial, and caudal cruciate ligaments. The technique offers enhanced visualization and magnification of the joint structures. The technology developed for this procedure allows for minimal surgical incisions for partial CCL and meniscus tears. If your dog has experienced a complete tear of their ligament then your vet may not recommend this procedure.

Lateral Suture or Extracapsular

Often recommended for small to medium-sized dogs, this surgery stabilizes the stifle (knee) through the use of sutures placed on the outside of the joint. If your dog weighs less than 50 pounds and is a candidate for surgery then it is likely that they may have this procedure done.

TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement)

TTA is a method of surgery that corrects the need for the CCL by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and stabilizing it in its new position using a plate. The veterinary surgeon will use this procedure to completely replace your dog's CCL rather than repair it.

TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy)

TPLO surgery is becoming increasingly popular and is the best option for larger dog breeds. The procedure entails cutting and leveling the tibial plateau. From there, the surgeon stabilizes the tibial plateau using a plate and screws. Once this procedure is complete, your dog will no longer have any need for their CCL.

CCL Surgery in Dogs: Recovery

One of the most crucial aspects of surgery is the post-operative care. It is this care after all which determines whether or not the surgery was a success. The first 12 weeks following surgery are a crucial time for recovery and rehabilitation. Limited exercise and encouraging your pup to begin using their leg are keys to a successful recovery.

At 2 weeks post-operatively, you can gradually increase the length of your dog's leashed walks. By the 8th week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform some of their basic daily activities.

After 8-10 weeks post-operatively, your vet will take X-rays to assess how the bone is healing. Your dog will be able to gradually be able to resume normal activities. Most vets would recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog's recovery. Whatever rehabilitation facility you attend should have experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries.

Some dogs have also experienced positive results via acupuncture treatments and cold laser therapy.

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.

Have you noticed your dog is limping or in pain? Contact our Westfield vets to schedule a full examination for your pet.

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