A dog running in the sunlight

You probably know someone (maybe even yourself) who has torn the ACL in their knee alignment, which plays a big role in stabilizing the knee joint. Usually this happens during a rough football play, a skiing accident, or maybe some other traumatic injury.

In dogs and cats, the ACL is even more critical due to the mechanics of their four-legged gait. In pets this ligament is termed the cranial (vs. anterior) cruciate ligament (CCL), but serves the same purpose: to keep the femur from sliding off the front of the tibia (ouch!).

When a pet injures or ruptures their CCL it is more often due to chronic strain and wear than traumatic injury, but the result is the same. A sudden, non-weight bearing lameness that prompts immediate treatment. Unfortunately, ligaments are not well-known for their healing ability and often a procedure such as a TPLO surgery is required. 

Diagnosing a CCL Injury

When a pet becomes suddenly and severely lame in a back leg, a CCL injury is often at the top of our list of suspicions. Your pets gait and the history of lameness will raise our clinical suspicions of this condition.

Our course The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center will also perform some diagnostics to confirm our tentative diagnosis. In many pets, a cranial drawer test will be performed. During this test the leg is manipulated in such a way as to create forward motion of the femur in relation to the tibia. If the CCL is intact this will not be able to be accomplished. In some pets sedation is needed to accurately assess the cranial drawer.

Radiographs, or x-rays, are also often performed. While we cannot see the cranial cruciate ligament or other soft tissue structures within the knee, we can assess for bony changes and swelling that support our diagnosis. We can also rule out many other orthopedic diseases.

The TPLO Surgery for Pets

If your pet is diagnosed with a CCL injury or rupture, typically surgery is in order. Without surgery, ongoing instability of the knee joint can lead to severe pain and advanced arthritis development.  

While there are several procedures that may be appropriate, TPLO surgery is often considered the gold standard. 

A TPLO, or tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, involves making a cut in the top of the tibia bone and then rotating it to create stability within the joint sans CCL. The rotated bone piece is then plated into place and allowed to heal much like a broken bone. 

TPLO surgery is a very commonly performed procedure, but one that you want completed by an experienced party such as one of our skilled surgeons.

You can help to ensure your pet’s success by:

  • Provided appropriate exercise restriction as prescribed
  • Administering pain medications as directed
  • Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight
  • Using recommended joint supplements
  • Completing any prescribed physical therapy post-surgery

Most pets do great after a TPLO surgery and are feeling much better quickly. If your pet is limping, or if your pet has been diagnosed with a CCL injury and you would like more information about surgery, please give us a call. We are here and ready to help.