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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. 

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. ​



Rehab After CCL Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

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