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CCL Injury in Both Back Legs


It is not unusual for dogs who have a cranial cruciate ligament rupture in one leg to develop one in the other leg. It is a little unusual to have two severe ruptures at the same time, but it does occur, especially in large breed dogs or overweight canines. Generally the signs of this type of injury will manifest itself in the dog with an impaired gait, shaking while walking, and/or dragging the back legs. It is not unusual for veterinarians and pet owners to think that partial paralysis is present or that the severe lameness is due to spinal disc disease because of the severity of the presentation.

Surgical stabilization of the stifle (knee joint) is advocated by most veterinary surgeons when cruciate ligament rupture has occurred in both knees. Despite this, there are not any long-term studies that compare surgical repair to conservative treatment over the lifetime of dogs to show that surgery is actually beneficial when compared to long term comparison with medical treatment alone (i.e. anti inflammatory medications, supplements, CM followed by physical therapy). Conservative management does work, but it is a bit more difficult in the case of a dog with a double CCL injury. There is no need to rush into surgery, despite what your veterinary surgeon may advise. Dogs can do very well for prolonged periods of time doing CM, with smaller dogs and dogs proportionate for weight to size (meaning they are not overweight) often making full recoveries without surgical intervention.

Not surprisingly, surgery is almost always advocated by surgeons . It is likely that surgery does help reduce the amount of arthritis that occurs, but in a long term study of cruciate ligament surgery in dogs in Australia, about 50% still had detectable arthritis in surgically repaired joints and about 10% of dogs were persistently lame despite attempts to surgically stabilize the joint. Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) has become the top choice for surgical CCL repair among many orthopedic veterinarians, and it can be done in both large and small dogs. Supporters of TPLO will say its good choice for the situation in which there is a bilateral cruciate rupture since it seems to be a strong repair procedure, but there are many instances where dogs have done equally as well with either TTA or a traditional repair.

Dogo Argentino with Two Torn CCLOne benefit of doing a traditional extracapsular repair, in addition to saving a few thousand dollars, is that you still have other options for repair if for some reason the traditional repair fails. If you are choosing surgery for a dog with a double CCL rupture, make sure to research each procedure carefully before blindly going along with a procedure you know nothing about. TPLO, TTA and traditional repairs are all very different procedures, and each carry their own set of risks vs. rewards. The best way to find out what is right for your pet is to do as much research as you can and find a veterinarian that is willing to discuss your many options for surgical intervention.

If surgery absolutely isn’t an option, there is a very good chance that in a few weeks, to a few months, you will find that your dog is doing OK without any type of surgical intervention -especially if you can manage the weight loss. There are a number of great resources both on this website and the web with instructions on how to succeed with CM.

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18 Responses to CCL Injury in Both Back Legs

  1. chris filarski September 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    my Malamute only 3 yrs. old,jumpted over a small fence,and may have twisted her back knee,upon a viewing with no x-ray,vet says she may have torn a ligament in her back knee….and wanted surgery for $1500….not knowing what to do,they gave her a sedative to sleep well,and pain medications…what should I do. to help her ? in time with her age,can it heal….or should I consider surgery to repair her leg…if thats the problem without an X-RAY…..?

  2. Shirley March 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Hello,
    Just found this post and was wondering what happened with your dog. Mine just did the same thing and had surgery today to fix it. They thought it was the acl until we took her to her vet and he could tell it was the ligament but did the exray just to be sure. They said without the surgery the bones would just keep rubbing together and this is extremly painful

  3. Steve April 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Our dog had surgery on her right knee last fall, yesterday she injured her left knee, the vet feels it is not worth doing the surgery on her. She is 7 years old part lab part sheppard, and it is breaking my heart thinkng that I will have to put her down…..Vet is coming tommorrow morning at 9am to put her down………..I am sad

  4. Steve April 4, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Today the vet came to our house and put Oreo out of pain, I feel so bad…..I miss her already….I hope we did the right thing…….it is so hard….when I would come home from work she would be waiting for me……When my wife and I would fall asleep in our bed she would jump up and sleep between us…I miss her and I wish she was still here!!!!!!!!!

  5. Jennifer April 9, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    Steve…I am so sorry about Oreo. I can’t believe the vet would want to put her down, but I don’t know all the facts. My Marvin is 10 and he ruptured his right knee 2 years ago. The vet advised a wait and see approach. This was surprising because it’s a state of the art clinic. Marvin’s knee healed great with no signs of arthritis, but last week, his left knee ruptured. We are doing the wait and see again. He needs to lose 20 lbs. The vet is hoping to manage his weight and we should be fine.

    • donna January 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

      Jennifer,

      That’s great news about your Marvin. If you don’t mind, I’m looking for more details on Marvins recovery. I have a 7 YO golden retriever with a ruptured CCL. I am using the conservative approach. We are in month 3 and doing great. The only concern I have is that after a good workout and a nap, she will limp for a few steps. The limp is pretty bad for 5-10 steps after she’s had some down time. Did you experience the same?

      Thanks for any insight.
      Donna

  6. Lynne May 8, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    Jennifer — Are both ruptures a total tear? How big is Oreo? With the first one, how long was it that you had to keep him inactive and see an improvement? How long before somewhat normal activity was allowed? Any information would be appreciated.

  7. Roy June 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    My dog has just had a TPLO op and we were told he probably has a tear in his right rear leg now. He is only one week post op now and we know a long way to go yet but we don’t fancy repeating this plus the cost £3,300 so far.
    Is there another way with avoiding surgery, he is an (nearly)8yr old Golden Retriever.
    Roy

  8. Betty September 12, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    We do American Pit Bull rescue. One of the dogs we rescued, who came to us with a broken front leg, which we had repaired (but she still limped on it) came up lame in her two back legs. A vet visit confirmed that she had ruptured both cruciates. We currently have 13 dogs; two of whom have gone through single cruciate rupture repairs. I can’t imagine how they could repair both legs at the same time. Reading this article opened my eyes to the option of not having to put her through surgery…I’m going to do more research on this. Thank you for the article.

  9. Nicole September 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    My dog has 2 ruptured ACL’s. Requiring 2 TPLO surgeries. at the cost of $6,000.00. She is lame on her left side. The left blew last week causing her to be lame on the left. After xrays, vet said her rt. knee must have ruptured awhile back because there are signs of arthritis in that one. She is not even 2 yrs. old and I only take her on long walks. She was playing inthe backyard when this happend. I cannot affor this surgery. I am a single woaman on permanent disability and living on a fixed income. She is my baby and a sweetheart. I would do anything for her , but I just cant afford so much $ all at once. Does anyone know of where or who I might contact for financial help??? Also if anyone knows of who to contact for knee braces, and meds, like rimadyl, antibiotics, and pain meds for her. If anyone or anyplace can donate such things I might be able to get the surgery sooner rather than later. She is beginning to get very depressed. I dont like to keep her on all these meds, but she is in extreme pain, and her energy level is usuallly HIGH. I dont want her to damge herself more. Please contact me @ nikkit68@ymail.com ASAP. She needs surgery NOW.. Thank You Nikki & Gabby

  10. Julie April 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    I have a Golden Retriever , who at 6yo had a tumor on her rearend that was cancer. We had the recommended surgery and even did chemo x 8 rounds. A lot, 5K , of money later, we also found out that she tore her right acl. It was a no brainer at the time to not fix it b/c we were dealing with recovery from the cancer. 2 years later, she is still here, 8 1/2 and in remission we’ll call it, and now tore the other acl while playing in the snow a couple months ago. I am so torn whether to do the surgery or not to fix the fresh new acl tear. Not sure how long she’ll live overall with or without the surgery. My vet recommends the surgery of course but is also understanding if I don’t want to do it due to her circumstances. She’s gained 4 lbs in 4 weeks just by laying around and no exercise b/c she’s just limiting her activity I’m guessing b/c of the pain. I know that she needs to lose weight, as she is now 80 wopping lbs. Any advice ???? I’m leaning toward no surgery.

  11. Betsy April 19, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Steve, I am so terribly sorry for your loss! My 9 year old Aussie blew out her right rear CCL a week and a half ago. She was sched. for surg. tomorrow morning. Last night she was following me, (we’ve been apart about 2 weeks in her entire life), and slipped on the stair and just fell to the floor screaming in pain. Our vet, who is about 1 minute away, doesn’t do any more emergency stuff, you have to go to a special clinic about 30 mins. away, (all the vets in our area are part of that now), so we did that and left her overnight so they could manage her pain. I picked her up at 7:30 this am and took her into my Vet. He just called and told me that she has destroyed her left rear CCL as well and it’s actually worse than her right one is. He is calling his professor who was part of developing a special treatment that involves moving bone and installing a metal plate. My Vet knows that Kilee has arthritis, (Rimydal for over a year), and we live in a split level house, so stairs to get in, and out…lot’s of stairs. She weighs 65 lbs. I tore my right rotator cuff and left knee out so carrying her is impossible for me. I wondered if anyone else here has had a situation similar to mine? I’m waiting for my Vet to call me with his professors prognosis. This is the hardest thing ever and all I’m doing is crying. ugh.
    Thanks folks.

  12. FRANK July 2, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    Hi Betsy.I have a 3 year old wire haired pointer that has had both legs repaired TPLO,the left went first( at 1 year old ) with meniscal damage the right went 1 week after recovery .$6,000, now at 3 the meniscal has gone in the left.You will be chasing hope with an bunch of money,I am, because I love my dog, and it’s money i need, .the trouble is with this type of injury you fix one problem then wait for the next.Good luck Betsy my heart feels for you.Frank from australia

  13. admin January 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I just wanted to let you all know that a reader submitted their story about a Bilateral Tightrope surgery – choosing to do both legs at the same time. I only have information back from her on the first day after surgery, but am anxious to see how it goes.

    Seems like a pretty daunting prospect to me, but she raises some good points about only having to go through everything surrounding the surgery once – the resting period, rehab, operation, etc. You can see her post here if you’re curious – http://dogkneeinjury.com/bilateral-tightrope-surgery-canine-acl/

    Have any of the rest of you done a CCL repair on both knees at the same time?

  14. Betsy January 12, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Oh, so sad. I ended up losing my girl. She just couldn’t have survived the surgeries. We have a tri-level home. She was put to sleep the day after I wrote that note.
    We just got our new little Aussie boy, Ed, 3 months ago. He was a rescue..we’re his 5th home in his one year of life. He has been such a challenge, but he is worth it and we love him. Thanks for all the feedback. God bless you all!!

  15. chris March 10, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    hi ,i hve a 5yr old rottie who has had a cruciate op 3yrs ago ,although she seems much better on that leg now she still has problems after along walk unfortunatly her other leg has gone now and im wondering if she has the op on this leg is the other one going to b strong enough to support her through her rehabilitation she is 49kg so quite a heavy dog any advice wud b appreciated as i wud hve to get a looan to get her the operation and want to make sure having the opp is the right decision many thanks

  16. Lisa July 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Dear Chris and others,

    After your dog has recovered from a torn CCL (whether you did surgery or not) you are not supposed to expect that they can go on long walks or do any major workouts, as one person said. The knee will never perform as it used to, only to a max of 85%, so the walks and activities must be cut in half (that’s the recommendation). In other words, if your dog used to walk 2 miles, he should only now be walking 1 mile. And if your dog used to do any activities that involved twisty movements (like frisbee) then this is now out of the question or he can easily re-injure. And if there is any limping after an activity it means this was too much. Please be careful people!!!

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  1. Ccl injury in dogs - May 23, 2011

    [...] CCL Injury in Both Back Legs | Dog Knee and Leg Injury, Canine … Surgical and non-surgical options to repair a ccl injury in both legs. [...]

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