Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery (ACL)

We offer surgery for Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture. This is a surgery procedure that can affect many pets. We can help answer any questions that you may have regarding the surgery and after care.


The “stifle” is the knee joint of the dog; it is the joint between the large upper thigh bone (the femur) and the two lower leg bones (tibia and fibula)
A “ligament” is a band of connective or fibrous tissue that connects two bones or cartilage at a joint; the “cranial cruciate ligament” is the ligament that connects the inner, back part of the femur with the tibia—it helps to stabilize the stifle joint
“Cranial cruciate ligament disease” is the sudden (acute) or progressive failure of the cranial cruciate ligament, which results in partial to complete instability of the stifle joint
“Cranial cruciate rupture” is the tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament; it is the most common cause of rear-leg lameness in dogs and a major cause of degenerative joint disease (progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage) in the stifle joint; rupture may be partial or complete

May be important in increasing the likelihood of active stifle restraint deficiencies and/or conformation abnormalities

Uncommon in cats
Breed Predilections
All susceptible
Rottweilers and Labrador retrievers—increased incidence when less than 4 years of age
Mean Age and Range
Dogs, greater than 5 years of age
Large-breed dogs—1 to 2 years of age
Predominant Sex
Spayed female

Related to the degree of rupture (partial versus complete), the mode of rupture (sudden [acute] versus long-term [chronic]), the presence of other injury to the stifle, and the severity of inflammation and degenerative joint disease (progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage)
History of athletic or traumatic events—generally precede sudden (acute) injuries
Normal activity resulting in sudden (acute) lameness—suggests degenerative rupture; “degeneration” is the decline or loss of function or structure of a tissue
Subtle to marked intermittent lameness (for weeks to months)—consistent with partial tears that are progressing to complete rupture
Sudden (acute) cranial cruciate rupture results in non-weightbearing lameness, fluid build-up in the joint (known as “joint effusion”) and the affected leg held in partial flexion while standing
“Cranial drawer test”—specific manipulation evaluating the status of the cranial cruciate ligament; diagnostic for cranial cruciate rupture
Decrease in muscle mass (known as “muscle atrophy”) in the rear leg—especially the quadriceps muscle group

Repetitive micro-injury to the cranial cruciate ligament
Conformation abnormalities

Knee cap (known as the “patella”) dislocation (known as a “patellar luxation”)
Poor conformation
Abnormalities of the bones making up the stifle


Dogs less than 33 lbs (15 kg)—may treat conservatively as outpatients; 65% improve or are normal by 6 months
Dogs greater than 33 lbs (15 kg)—treat with stabilization surgery; only 20% improve or are normal by 6 months with conservative medical management
Following surgery—ice packing and physical therapy (such as range-of-motion exercises, massage, and muscle electrical stimulation); important for improving mobility and strength

Restricted—with conservative medical treatment and immediately after surgical stabilization; duration of activity restriction depends on method of treatment and progress of patient

Weight control—important for decreasing stress on the stifle joint

Stabilization surgery—recommended for all dogs; speeds rate of recovery; reduces degenerative joint changes; enhances function
Various surgical techniques are available to treat cranial cruciate rupture
Extra-Articular Methods
Variety of techniques that use a heavy-gauge implant to tether the tibia to the femur and restore stability
Implant material—placed in the approximate plane of the cranial cruciate ligament attachments to the bones (femur and tibia)
Intra-Articular Methods
Designed to replace the cranial cruciate ligament anatomically
Uses various materials to “act” as the ligament, including autografts (patella ligament, fascia), allografts (bone-tendon-bone), and synthetic materials
Modified Extra-Articular Methods
Fibular head transposition or popliteal tendon transposition
Realignment and tension on the lateral collateral ligament or popliteal tendon to stabilize the stifle joint
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (“TPLO”)
Surgical cutting (known as a “rotational osteotomy”) of the tibia
Held in place with a special plate and screws
Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
Surgical procedure in which part of the tibia is cut (procedure known as a “tibial crest osteotomy”), crest is held in an advanced position with a cage and plate, bone graft fills the defect
Active control of cranial tibial displacement is improved which helps stabilize the stifle

Medications presented in this section are intended to provide general information about possible treatment. The treatment for a particular condition may evolve as medical advances are made; therefore, the medications should not be considered as all inclusive.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—minimize pain; decrease inflammation; examples include meloxicam, carprofen, etodolac, deracoxib
Medications intended to slow the progression of arthritic changes and protect joint cartilage (known as “chondroprotective drugs”), such as polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate—may help limit cartilage damage and degeneration; may help alleviate pain and inflammation


Depends on method of treatment
Most surgical techniques require 2 to 4 months of rehabilitation

Avoid breeding animals with conformational abnormalities

Second surgery may be required in 10% to 15% of cases, because of subsequent damage to the meniscus (a crescent-shaped cartilage located between the femur and tibia in the stifle)

Regardless of surgical technique, the success rate generally is better than 85%

Regardless of the method of treatment, some degenerative joint disease (progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage) is common
Approximately 20% to 40% of dogs with cranial cruciate ligament rupture involving one leg will rupture the ligament in the opposite leg at a later date
Return to full athletic function is possible, but requires considerable rehabilitation

Map & Directions

Healthy Pet Hospital & Grooming
3411 E. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92869

Healthy Pet Hospital & Grooming  is conveniently Located in Orange just off the 55 Freeway at Chapman Avenue.

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