ACL Surgery and Red Light Therapy for Dogs

agility dog jumping over hurdle ACL health

As a dog owner, Injuries and illnesses come unexpectedly in your pet’s life. These ailments and injuries are unavoidable, make pet owners frustrated, and prove to be costly. One of the common injuries among dogs is the ACL (Anterior Cruciate ligament) tear, which needs surgical intervention and usually costs way too high, around $1500 to $4000. If you are one of those anxious pet owners facing the problem, thinking how much time will it take to heal and how much cost you need to pay for the doggie physical therapy, take heart. In this blog, I will educate you about ACL surgery and the alternative therapy that you can use for post surgery recovery for your furry friend.

What is ACL?

ACL, abbreviated for anterior cruciate ligament, is a connective tissue band at the middle of the knees connecting femur bone with the tibia. This ACL ligament in dogs is known as CCL. The ligament bears weight when your dog stands. If you see lameness on your dog’s hind legs, there may be a rupture or tear in the cranial cruciate ligament, just like in humans when they have a rupture in the ACL ligament. The stability of the knee joint depends on this ligament.

The CCL injuries in your furry friend can have several different causes depending on their level of activity, age, breed, and activity. CCL injuries in pet dogs are among the most common orthopedic issues.

anterior cruciate ligament injury

What are the symptoms of CCL injuries in dogs?

If you wonder what your dog might feel if he has undergone a CCL injury, then I suggest you suspect lameness in your dog: lacking the ability to bear weight on his leg. Usually, there is also a swelling on the knee from the inner side. A significant indication of CCL among dogs is a particular “drawer sign.” This drawer sign means that if you hold the femur in its place, the tibia will pull forward like a drawer. However, if it doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean your dog is not affected.

Other typical signs of CCL injuries in dogs include:

· Stiffness (especially after exercise when the dog rests)

· Difficulty in jumping and raising leg

· Limping and lameness in hind legs

The injured dog needs to have paused physical activity, or else a mildly injured CCL will worsen, and symptoms can become more pronounced.

Typically, dogs with a single leg CCL injury start favoring the healthy leg during their activities, leading to a second knee injury. It is stated that almost around 60% of dogs having a CCL injury from one leg get their second knee also injured quickly.

German Shepard dog high risk for CCL injuries

Which dogs are at risk of Torn CCL?

The incidence of CCL in dogs in certain breeds is more common, such as German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers.

It also depends on the activity level of dogs. Those animals that occasionally go for exercise and are obese are more prone to develop such injuries. Some studies stated that dogs that are neutered before 12 months of age develop CCL injuries later at some point in their life.

Diagnosis of CCL in dogs?

If your furry friend has been in pain and has difficulty raising legs, you need to get it examined by a qualified veterinarian. Your vet will examine it entirely and will probably perform an X-ray of the knee. It would enable the vet to know if there are fluids and arthritis in the knee joint and make sure there was any bone breakage when the ligament got ruptured.

What are the treatment options for CCL injuries in dogs?

To repair a torn CCL at the stifle joint, cruciate surgery is performed similarly to the one performed in humans. CCL surgery is the most common of all surgeries performed among dogs every year. It makes up about 85% of all the orthopedic surgeries in dogs. As it is the most common injury among dogs, several other treatment methods have been established to repair the ligament. Each technique comes with its pros and cons, so you need to discuss the method of treatment with an expert veterinarian to choose the best option for your dog.

CCL surgery costs up to $4500, including pre-surgery blood work, X-rays, pain medications, pre-aesthetic medications, the surgery itself, and postoperative care.

Some other surgical interventions for CCL treatment in dogs include:

- Tibial Tuberosity advancement TTA

- Tibial Plateau leveling osteotomy TPLO

- Lateral suture-extracapsular repair

In addition to these surgical interventions that are quite expensive, other modern techniques help recover with speed and provide great relief to the animals. The red light therapy technique has made this difficult recovery time relatively easier for the dogs. At Poll to Pastern, we provide our clients with post-operative red light therapy, which provides an energy boost to the cells, making your pet healthy with haste. Red light therapy also involves infrared light, which penetrates the tissues, tendons, muscles and increases blood circulation, boosting the healing process.

Below, recovery photos from TPLO surgery using Red Light Therapy is shown

This is Oakley after his TPLO surgery on January 12th. Oakley's owner used the red light therapy wrap 2-3 times a day for about 20 minutes each time. The description of each photo starts clockwise from top left.

- January 14th - this is day two of red light therapy. The first day (Jan. 13th) of red light was done over the bandages.

- January 16th - a lot of the redness and swelling has gone down and only 4 days of red light therapy. His hair is starting to come back.

- January 19th - the hair is growing back and the incision site is healing up!! We can see the redness is gone and minimal swelling.

- January 25th - the stitches came out a day early of the recommended 14 days. This is the 13th day after surgery and the 12th day of red light therapy. The hair is coming in very well, the scar is flat and not protruding. It’s light pink and beautiful!

dog tplo surgery recovery sutures

In addition to sessions, we also offer red light therapy wrap rentals for between session use or for use after a surgery. Contact us today to set up a session or a wrap rental for your pup!

To learn more about the red-light therapy, visit


Dr. Saba Afzal, DVM, UVAS Lahore, Pakistan. I am a professional and qualified veterinarian and deal with pets on a daily basis. Writing is my passion. I love to play with words to write about pets, especially dogs and cats.