A torn cranial cruciate ligament requires ACL surgery to repair it. And ACL surgery is a major and complicated operation for your dog. But when you prepare for healing and recovery before surgery, a successful outcome is more likely. So put your mind at ease and get ready for surgery now. Learn as much as you can about what to expect after ACL surgery.
What is ACL Surgery for Your Dog?
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in your dog’s knee (stifle) is the same as the ACL in your knee. ACL surgeries are the most common orthopedic surgeries performed on dogs because CCL injuries are common in dogs. Each of the techniques developed over the years have their advantages and disadvantages, so discuss which one is best for your dog. Factors to consider and discuss with your dog’s surgeon when choosing the best technique to repair the torn CCL are:
- Lifestyle and activity level
- Surgeon’s preference
- Cost of the procedure
- Post-operative care and rehabilitation
- Degree of joint disease
- Access to a board-certified orthopedic surgeon versus a general surgeon or practitioner
- Possible alternatives
Repairing the injury outside the joint of the CCL (extracapsular) is the most common procedure used to correct a CCL injury. Restoring stability to your dog’s
knee by placing sutures outside the joint is the goal. The CCL prevents the tibia from sliding forward and out from underneath the femur. By placing artificial sutures outside the joint, your dog’s knee stabilizes mimicking the normal function of the CCL. In ACL surgery, a continuous nylon suture much like fishing line is “wrapped around” the fabellar bone of the femur. It is looped through a hole drilled into the tibial tuberosity. The surgeon secures the two ends of the suture in place with a stainless steel clip.
This surgery is important to your dog if they rupture their cranial cruciate ligament. This leads to instability in the knee, which can lead to joint damage, including meniscal tears. An appropriate diagnosis to find the extent of the injury will help you choose the best procedure for your dog and better guarantee a successful recovery.
Alternatives for ACL Surgery
Three of the most common alternatives to extracapsular cruciate ligament repair are:
- Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
- Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA Surgery)
- Tightrope Technique
Are There Complications?
All surgical procedures carry the risk of complications. Infection, lack of stabilization, and implant failure are the most common with ACL procedures.
The most common complication caused by a torn cranial cruciate ligament is osteoarthritis of the affected joint. Arthritis is a progressive disease and develops quickly in an injured knee joint. And it although it progresses in spite of treatment, it progresses much more slowly with surgery and stabilization of your dog’s knee. If your dog experiences a torn CCL, management and prevention of arthritis with joint supplements are recommended, no matter which surgical procedure you choose.
Before ACL Surgery
Aside from scheduling your life around the surgery date and an intense two-week recovery time, prepare a place for recovery and purchase equipment beforehand.
- The GingerLead® – Since some dogs need support while standing and walking after ACL surgery. It’s best to purchase this product before surgery so you can practice walking your dog in it.
- A cone – prevents your dog from licking and chewing their wound. Licking and chewing the wound causes infection. Purchase a cone that fits your dog well. Then practice putting it on and taking it off your dog before surgery.
- The Spectra Therapy Canine Wearable LASERwrap® – for your dog before the day of surgery. Since inflammation, when left untreated, can impede healing and recovery, why not help your pet minimize pain and inflammation before ACL surgery? Then, after ACL surgery, you’ll have the LASERwrap® already to speed the recovery process and minimize the pain related to your pet’s operation.
After ACL Surgery
The first twelve weeks following surgery are a critical time of recovery and rehabilitation. It’s the post-operative care that determines how successful the procedure is. Knowing what to expect and how to properly care for your dog after ACL surgery is crucial. Proper care can speed healing and provide them with the best possible outcome during their recovery period.
Normal Post-Anesthesia Behavior
During the first night after ACL surgery, your dog may not want to drink water. In fact, drinking and eating may not be normal for a few days after surgery. But offer small amounts of water when you arrive home. Later on, offer small amounts of food.
Sedatives and anesthesia may cause disorientation and/or listless behavior in your dog following surgery. Listlessness could continue for up to 24 hours after surgery.
Your dog may howl and whine. This is also normal after undergoing anesthesia.
Incision and Stitches
- Be prepared. The incision and stitches aren’t pretty, and they look painful. But seeping and bleeding from the surgery site is normal. This may continue for several days.
- Check the incision daily. Look for redness, swelling, or discharge. If you see any of these signs of infection, take your dog to the vet.
- Your dog’s stitches and/or staples are removed ten to fourteen days after ACL surgery.
Wearing the Cone
Your dog must wear the cone for ten to fourteen days. As unpleasant as it is to your dog to have to wear it, don’t take the cone off. It takes less than thirty seconds for a dog to chew their stitches out. To avoid infection and damage to the sutures, keep the cone on.
Controlled exercise and encouraging your dog to begin using their leg is key to a successful recovery.
Keep your pet from running, jumping, and climbing stairs for the next ten days. Too much of these kinds of activities can damage the leg after ACL surgery.
Walk your dog for five minutes two or three times each day for the first week following surgery. Walks should be short, slow-paced, and controlled. Encourage your dog to use the affected leg. This weight-bearing activity strengthens the leg.
Don’t let your dog get into water for the next ten days either. Swimming or bathing can cause infection by introducing bacteria into the incision. The area may be wiped gently with a warm, damp cloth if needed.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can be poisonous to your pet. Give your dog only the medicine prescribed for them.
Physical therapy after ACL surgery improves range of motion. It involves massage, ice packs, and light range of motion. Be conservative and consistent. Don’t force your dog to do exercises they are unwilling to do. But gradually increase the intensity of the PT as your dog allows.
Scar tissue can limit your dog’s range of motion permanently. Even though they can be painful at first, that’s why range of motion exercises are so important. They decrease the chances of your dog forming scar tissue.
You can ease your pet’s pain by supporting the affected limb. Place one hand over the knee, the other grasping below the hock. Then gently extend the limb. Flex it as far as your dog will allow. Do this exercise ten to fifteen times two to three times a day. Gradually increase to twenty reps.
Ice packs reduce inflammation and soreness and should be used ten to fifteen minutes twice a day. Use ice packs after exercises the first week after ACL surgery.
Laser therapy after ACL surgery speeds healing and reduces inflammation. Read more about the benefits of the Spectra Therapy Canine Wearable LASERwrap® here.
If you have further questions about using the Spectra Therapy Canine Wearable LASERwrap® after ACL surgery, please call us at (248) 524-6300 today! And share your thoughts and comments below.