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Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Surgery in Dogs

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Surgery in Dogs

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) ruptures are a common orthopedic injury in dogs. Our Jackson vets explain the injury as well as the CCL surgery process that is likely necessary for your dog. 

What is a CCL?

The CCL is a connective tissue that connects and stabilizes the lower leg to the upper leg in the knee. It connects a dog's tibia to the femur above, resulting in partial or complete joint instability, pain, and immobility when torn. CCL ruptures occur as a result of a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in a dog's stifle (knee), which is the human equivalent to the ACL. 

How to Identify a CCL Injury in Dogs

When it comes to CCL tears in dogs, 80% are chronic onset ruptures caused by degeneration and usually occur as a result of aging. This is most common in dogs between the ages of five and seven.

Acute onset ruptures are most commonly seen in pups four years or younger. These tears are caused by injuries a dog will sustain just running around living their daily lives.

Symptoms of a CCL rupture may 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

If you notice any of the listed symptoms above, contact your vet and schedule an examination for your dog. 

Non-Surgical Treatment

There is a chance that dogs under 30 pounds can recover without surgery by getting plenty of rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy. This depends on the size of your pet, their overall health, and the severity of your dog's CCL injury.

Your veterinary surgeon will advise you on the best course of action for your dog.

Treatment Via Surgery

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 method of visualizing the stifle, cranial, and caudal cruciate ligament structures. The technique improves joint structure visualization and magnification. This procedure's technology allows for minimal surgical incisions for partial CCL and meniscus tears. For completely torn ligaments, this method may not be an option.

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. This is one of the most frequently performed surgeries for this type of injury and is usually performed on dogs that weigh under 50 pounds.

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. Therefore, the goal with TTA is to replace the ligament entirely, 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. This surgery also eliminates the need for the ligament.

Post-Op Recovery of CCL Surgery for Dogs

The care your dog receives after surgery will determine how successful the operation is, regardless of which operation is used to repair the ligament. The first 12 weeks after surgery are critical for recovery and rehabilitation. The keys to a successful recovery are limited exercise and encouraging your dog to begin using their leg.

At two weeks post-operatively, you can gradually increase the length of your dog’s leashed walks.

By the eighth week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform some of their basic daily living activities.

After ten weeks, your veterinarian will take x-rays to see how the bone is healing. Your dog will gradually be able to return to normal activities. To maximize your dog's recovery, we at Northside Animal Clinic recommend a rehabilitation program.

Whatever rehabilitation facility you attend should have experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries such as the TPLO.

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

Is your dog showing signs of a CCL tear? Contact our Northside Animal Clinic vets and book a consultation today

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Northside Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Jackson companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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