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ACL/CCL/TPLO Canine Physical Rehab


What is the Cranial Cruciate Ligament

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL or ACL) is an important stabilizing mechanism in your pet’s knee. When the cruciate ligament tears, it can lead to pain and inflammation in the joint.  The pain and inflammation will cause your dog to limp on the affected limb. If a dogs torn CCL is left untreated, it can cause persistent pain, instability in the joint and arthritis.

Diagnosing A Cruciate Ligament Tear

Your primary care veterinarian can diagnose a torn CCL at their hospital.  Typically a torn cruciate ligament is diagnosed by observing your dog's movement when walking. Your veterinarian will also manipulate the knee to check for swelling and instability.  

Since the cruciate ligament is a soft tissue structure, it will not be visible on x-rays, however your veterinarian will likely take x-rays to gather a bit more information about the joint and rule out other possible causes of the lameness and pain.


Surgical Repair Technique 

There are several factors that must be considered in order to determine the best way to proceed with your dogs torn cruciate ligament repair. These factors include your pet's:

  • Activity level

  • Age

  • Presence of full versus partial tear

  • Presence of a meniscus tear

One of the most common surgical techniques used to repair the canine cruciate ligament is the TPLO. Another technique is called the lateral suture repair - this procedure is typically performed on very small dogs. 

No matter what ccl repair surgery your pet receives, physical rehabilitation should always be included in their post operative recovery!

Non-surgical CCL Treatment

Surgery is generally the best way to treat CCL injuries. However, there are occasionally pets who are not good surgical candidates. For those pets who are unable to undergo surgery we can consider fitting them for a custom brace to support the limb. We also will discuss a physical rehabilitation program to address both the pain and inflammation in the affected knee. Physical rehabilitation can also be utilized for strengthening and resolving the secondary muscle soreness which develops from your pet moving their body differently that it was designed to move.


Rehab After CCL Surgery

Physical rehabilitation should always be part of your pet's recovery process.  While your pet show improvement without physical rehabilitation, more than likely they will have compensatory muscular discomfort and it is unlikely that they will be able achieve optimal, pain-free mobility.

During your pet's initial consultation we will:

  • Assess your dog's affected limb + their entire musculoskeletal system

    • We want to make sure that your pet's limb is healing appropriately. We will also perform a thorough exam to ensure that we address all areas of pain.  ​

  • Create a plan to restore function and balance to your pet's body. Treatment may include:

    • Laser therapy​

    • Massage therapy

    • Therapeutic exercise

    • Underwater treadmill 

  • Discuss exercises and rehab techniques to best address your pet's needs

    • Exercises are tailored for your pets specific needs and we ensure that you are appropriately executing the exercises. Poor exercise form or incorporating exercises before your pet is ready to properly execute them can result in injury or continued dysfunction and pain. ​

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens during a visit for acupuncture?
    During your pet's assessment prior to the acupuncture treatmetn, the doctor may assess your pet for pain in addition to checking their tongue and pulse. While it may seem a little strange to check the tongue and pulse, checking both of these can provide information about your pet’s condition and can help the doctor determine the best acupuncture prescription for your pet. The needles are thin and push the skin out of the way rather than cut it. While some acupuncture points may be sensitive and cause slight discomfort once the needles are inserted, typically this discomfort quickly subsides. Some people worry that their pets may not tolerate the treatment, but most pets sit still for their treatments and some even fall asleep. We incorporate calming sounds, mood lighting and licky mats with peanut butter if needed to help keep your pet calm during their treatment.
  • What are side effects of acupuncture in pets?
    When performed by a trained and certified veterinary acupuncturist, acupuncture is generally safe with minimal side effects. Some patients may have a temporary worsening of their symptoms or may be a little sore for 24-28 hours following the treatment. Bruising, breaking of the needle, needle ingestion or puncture of internal organs are all extremely rare but possible side effects which owner's should be made aware of.
  • How long are the acupuncture treatments for my pet?
    Our acupuncture appointments are scheduled for 30 minutes. Depending on the pet, the acupuncture needles may remain in place anywhere for 12- 25 minutes.
  • Who can perform the acupuncture treatments for my pet?
    Acupuncture treatments should only peformed by a licensed veterinarian who is trained in acupunture treatments for pets. Dr. Arielle performs all of the acupuncture treatments for pets at Healing Tails. She received her training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.
  • Should acupuncture be used instead of western medicine?
    Acupuncture should be used in conjunction with traditional western medical diagnostics, work-ups and treatments. In some cases clients are able to reduce the dose of pain medications or eliminate them altogether under the guidance of their veterinarian. It is important to discuss your goals for your pet's treatment during their intial exam.
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