Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Surgery in Dogs

Dogs often suffer from orthopedic injuries such as Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) ruptures. Our vets in Stanwood can provide a detailed explanation of the injury and discuss the surgical process that may be required to treat your furry friend.

What is a CCL?

The CCL is a vital connective tissue in a dog's knee that provides stability by connecting the lower leg to the upper leg. However, when torn, it can cause partial or complete joint instability, pain, and immobility. This type of injury is commonly referred to as CCL ruptures, which occur when the cranial cruciate ligament in a dog's stifle (knee) gets torn, similar to the ACL injury in humans.

How to Identify a CCL Injury

CCL tears in dogs are mostly chronic onset ruptures, which account for 80% of the cases. These tears occur due to degeneration and are often caused by aging, commonly in dogs aged five to seven. On the other hand, acute onset ruptures are frequently observed in younger pups, typically aged four years or younger.

These tears result from injuries sustained during normal daily activities, like running around.

Some common symptoms of CCL rupture 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

In dogs under 30 pounds, there is a possibility of recovery that doesn't require surgery through ample rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical rehabilitation. This depends upon your pet's size, 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

Did you know that CCL surgery is quite prevalent among dogs, accounting for approximately 85% of all orthopedic surgeries performed annually on them? As this is a common injury, several methods have been developed over the years to repair the ligament. However, each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is crucial to talk to your veterinarian about the procedure most suits your dog's condition. Here are the most typical methods of repairing the injury.


The process of arthroscopy provides a non-invasive way to examine the structures of the stifle, as well as the cranial and caudal cruciate ligaments. This technique allows joint structures to be viewed with improved clarity and magnification. The technology used in this procedure allows for smaller surgical incisions, which can be beneficial for partial CCL and meniscus tears. However, it may not be suitable for completely torn ligaments.

Lateral Suture or Extracapsular

This surgical procedure is commonly advised for small to medium-sized dogs, as it involves stabilizing the stifle or knee joint using sutures placed externally. It is a popular surgery for treating this kind of injury and is typically recommended for dogs weighing less than 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

The success of any ligament repair operation for your dog depends greatly on the quality of care they receive after surgery. The first 12 weeks following the operation are particularly crucial for the recovery and rehabilitation process. To ensure a successful recovery, limiting your dog's exercise and encouraging them to begin using their leg is important. 

After two weeks of surgery, you can gradually increase the length of your dog's leashed walks. By the eighth week, they should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform basic daily activities. 

Around the tenth week post-surgery, your vet will conduct X-rays to assess the healing of the bone. Your dog can gradually resume normal activities after this point. At Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Stanwood, we recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog's recovery. 

It is essential to choose a rehabilitation facility with experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries such as TPLO. Additionally, some dogs have reported positive results from acupuncture treatments and laser therapy.

Is your dog showing signs of a CCL tear? Contact our Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Stanwood vets and book a consultation today