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Can a Dog Recover From an ACL Tear Without Getting Surgery?

Can a Dog Recover From an ACL Tear Without Getting Surgery?

The answer isn’t black and white. While it is possible for a dog to recover from an ACL tear using surgery alternatives, it is not true for all dogs. In some cases yes, and in other cases, no. As with any dog health concerns, our team at Ortho Dog always recommend dog owners get an expert opinion. Once a licensed veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a torn CCL, the next step is for you to look into all available options in order to support your pup’s health. Treatment modalities can include invasive surgery or a conservative management, such as a dog brace to stabilize the knee joint or supplements to support joint health. 

When it comes to dog ACL surgery alternatives, the effectiveness of the methods relies heavily on several variables, including severity of tear, as well as the dog’s age and general health, activity level, current medications, and supervision level of the dog’s activity, among other factors. 

Before we go into detail on how our dog knee brace can help support the healing of ACL injuries in many dogs, let’s look briefly at what this knee injury looks like in your pet. 

CCL vs. ACL

If you’re a sports fan, it’s likely you’ve heard of ACL injuries when it comes to basketball, soccer, and football athletes. The anatomical structure we humans call our anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the thin connective tissue in the middle of our knee, is actually called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in canines. The CCL in dogs connects the femur (bone above the knee) to the tibia (bone below the knee). The top of the tibia is the tibial plateau. You’ve likely noticed that your dog’s knee is always bent slightly when standing. The ACL is always load-bearing, which can make the ligament susceptible to injury.

Dog ACL Injury Symptoms

With athletes, an ACL tear is usually an acute trauma that happens suddenly after a jump or sudden change of direction. When a dog partially tears its CCL, however, it is usually an issue that gets worse little by little, over time. It usually ends up being a full tear due to continued physical activity. Dogs have a hard time resisting the kinds of quick movements that can further aggravate a torn CCL—like chasing squirrels through the yard. They can't help themselves! 

A limping dog or one showing signs of lameness can point to a range of conditions. When a dog tears its CCL completely, previous limping will worsen and the dog will begin favoring the non-injured leg. 

While the injured knee is becoming less and less used because of the partial tearing, pressure is put on the other knee. This is one reason why in 60% of cases, a CCL tear in dogs will later lead to an injury of the other knee.

A torn ACL requires rest, immobilization, and often surgery. An evaluation by your vet can help you determine the best treatment options for your dog.

Dog Knee Braces Stabilize the Knee Joint

When it comes to dog ACL surgery alternatives, many dog owners have opted for a canine CCL brace as a cost-effective solution. A non-rigid brace, the Ortho Dog Cruciate Care Knee Brace stabilizes and supports the knee joint. This can help dogs who suffer from a torn CCL or any kind of sprain or strain of the knee.

A soft tissue injury takes about 6–8 weeks to heal with or without a brace. Our customers are typically dog owners who have opted out of surgery for one reason or another. The purpose of the knee brace is to stabilize the knee by limiting flexion and extension so that scar tissue can form a callus over the tear for healing. Trying the brace out first can give your dog the needed support to heal naturally. 

Dog ACL Surgical Options

Once a licensed veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a CCL tear and it is decided that surgery is the best option for your dog, there are three main orthopedic procedures to repair an ACL tear: 1. A lateral suture technique (aka extracapsular repair), 2. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), and 3. Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA). 

All three cruciate ligament dog surgery options have their pros, cons, and risks. Lateral suture technique involves replacing the torn ligament with a false ligament (a single fiber plastic line called a mono-filament) on the outside of the joint. It can cost between $1,100-2,500. 

TPLO eliminates the need for the CCL ligament because of the way the tibia is cut and rotated. The tibial plateau is cut and rotated into a more flat position. This procedure can cost between $2,400-4,500.

TTA also changes the dynamics of the knee (so that the CCL is no longer necessary) by stabilizing the knee joint. During this surgery, a linear cut is made along the length of the front part of the tibia. This cut bone is advanced forward and a bone spacer is place within the space of the cut. A stainless steel metal plate secures the bone in place. The approximate cost can range from $3,500-4,500.

In addition to the financial consideration of surgery, there is also the time and supervision required for post-op recovery and rehabilitation. Healing time can include complete inactivity for 8 to 12 weeks.

Dog ACL Surgery Alternatives

In addition to the Ortho Dog dog ACL brace,  there are a range of other conservative treatment modalities. Acupuncture, supplements (fish oil, turmeric, and glucosamine), swimming, and massage can also aid in your dog’s recovery from a CCL tear.

As with anything dog-health related, go over the pros and cons of each option (surgery and surgery alternative) and solicit expert advice. We hope your furry best friends are back to their old selves in no time.