ACL Injuries – Why is my dog limping?

What is the ACL or CCL?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a thin connective tissue in the middle of our knees. In dogs, this is called the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) and connects the bones above and below their knees. Since a dog’s leg is always bent while standing, the CCL is always load-bearing.

Differences Between ACL & CCL Injuries

You typically hear about ACL injuries in athletes, right? It usually happens when someone makes a quick movement– creating acute trauma. Unlike a quick movement, a CCL injury occurs much more gradually by slowly creating a tear through a repetitive activity.

Symptoms of ACL Injuries in Dogs

The most common signs of a CCL injury are:

  • Difficulty rising and jumping.
  • Hind leg lameness and limping.
  • Stiffness (typically most noticeable after rest, following exercise).

Continued activity on a mildly injured CCL will cause the injury to worsen and symptoms to become more pronounced.

Typically, a dog will favor the non-injured legs if there is a CCL tear. This can lead to injury of the second knee. Unfortunately, more than half of the dogs will injure a different knee within a short period of injuring the first one.

Treating ACL Injuries in Dogs

There are several different treatment options available if your dog ends up with a CCL injury. These range from knee braces to surgery. Dr. Nancy Hampel, a board-certified surgeon, will take account your dog’s age, weight, size, lifestyle, and energy level when deciding the best treatment for your dog’s injury.

Treatment Options

Knee Brace – A knee brace is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment to treat a CCL injury. It’s a way to stabilize your dog’s knee and give their ligament time to scar over and repair itself. This method may be successful when combining low levels of activity with your dog.

Extracapsular Repair / Lateral Suture – This method is recommended for small to medium dogs weighing less than 50 pounds. The procedure involves replacing your dog’s damaged ligament with an artificial one on the outside of their joint.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) – TTA surgery also eliminates the need for the CCL ligament by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and then stabilizing it in its new position with a stainless-steel metal plate.

Recovery from ACL Surgery

Each dog is special and unique. This means that they all have different needs and recovery times when healing after a procedure. It’s important to take your veterinarian’s advice and take it slow with your dog for the best recovery. An average of 16 weeks or longer is common for dogs to completely heal and return to normal function in most dogs. Slow and steady wins the race!

If your dog is showing signs of a torn CCL, contact us to book an appointment. At All God’s Creatures Animal Hospital, the veterinary team has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating CCL and other joint injuries in dogs.


At All God’s Creatures Animal hospital, our goal is to continuously improve the quality of life of our patients and the well-being of our community by providing high quality, cost effective veterinary health care that exceeds our clients’ expectations.  Our staff is devoted to providing the best medical, surgical, and emergency veterinary care available.