ACL/CCL/TPLO 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 ligament is damaged, it can lead to pain, swelling, arthritis, limping and loss of mobility due to the instability. 

Diagnosing A Tear

Typically we diagnose a torn CCL with palpation and manipulation of the knee, observation of the dog’s movement and an x-ray to rule out other possible causes of abnormal gait.


Surgery vs. Rehab

There are several factors that must be considered in order to determine the best way to manage your dogs CCL injury. These factors include you pets:

  • Age

  • Activity level

  • Full versus partial tear

  • Presence of a meniscus tear

Your surgeon and certfied veterinary rehab professional can help guide you towards the best treatment option for your pet and your individual situation.


Whether surgery is indicated or not, physical rehabilitation should always be included and provided by a certified canine rehabilitation professional.  A certified physcial rehabilitaton profession can help prescribe the most appropriate exercise and rehab plan tailored specifically towards your pets individual needs and stage of recovery.   

Rehabilitation should always be part of the post op recovery process. Without utilizing your rehab your pet may recover full use of their leg, however more than likely they will have compensatory muscular discomfort and likely no achieve optimal, pain-free mobility. Our goals vary depending on the stage of recovery we can focus on:

  • Pain management

  • Weight bearing 

  • Range of motion

  • Muscle tension and discomfort

  • Muscle stregnth

  • Endurance

  • Return to full function

Working with a rehabilitation professional is ideal. 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 dysfuction and pain. 


Rehab After Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

How did my pet injure his/her CCL?

Unlike humans, who typically damage their ACL from acute trauma, dogs generally will tear their CCL after a gradual breakdown of the ligament. Even dogs that seem to become suddenly lame and are diagnosed with a CCL tear have typically experienced gradual damage to the ligament which eventually completely tears, resulting in swelling and pain. There are many factors which may contribute to the likelihood of a dog tearing their CCL including: - Genetics - Obesity - Conformation

Surgery was recommended for my dog - can I just do rehab instead?

Rehab is a critical component to helping your dog recover from a CCL injury. Every patient is different and there are several factors which need to be considered when determining how to best proceed, including: - Age - Weight - Presence of a meniscal tear - Other medical conditions If surgery recommended by a surgeon, we recommend following the surgeons recommendations. In cases in which surgery may not be in the pet’s interest, after a thorough physical rehabilitation exam at the clinic, we can guide you on the best rehabilitation plan and even help fit your pet for a custom brace to support the affected knee. No matter what, physical rehabilitation is always an important component to help your pet regain their strength, mobility and have the best chance of living pain-free and returning to the life they love.

My dog had CCL surgery, how can you help them?

There are several different surgeries to used to treat dogs with CCL injuries. TPLO stands for tibial plateau leveling osteotomy and is the most common surgical procedure used to treat dogs with CCL injuries. However there are other surgical procedures such as the lateral fabellar suture or tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) which can also be used to treat the CCL injury. Ultimately you and your surgeon will decide what procedure is best for your dog. At Healing Tails, we typically see CCL surgical patients 10-14 days after surgery. During the initial visit, we will perform a thorough physical assessment and discuss the best plan of care for your pet. The frequency and duration of their plan of care is dependant on the stage of recovery, if the pet is suffering from concurrent joint disease and how much muscle loss they lost before and after surgery. For most patients, we see them 1-2 times per week for 5-10 weeks. Therapy typically includes laser therapy, massage, underwater treadmill, therapeutic exercise and a home exercise plan.