Is Your Dog Experiencing Soreness or Limping? Learn More About ACL Tears:
A torn ACL (torn knee) is the single most common type of orthopedic injury in dogs. This condition is sometimes also referred to by veterinarians as a tear of the CCL or cranial cruciate ligament. Regardless of what term is used, your pet can experience serious symptoms including soreness, instability in the knee, and limping. Below, we’ve collected answers to some of the most common questions we hear from individuals whose pets are suffering from a torn ACL.
What Is an ACL Tear?
The term ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, which is a type of tissue in the leg that connects at the knee. Injuries to the ACL are common in humans, especially for professional athletes who put heavy strain on their legs. Unlike athletes however, who can suffer from ACL tears suddenly after taking a bad step, ACL tears in dogs are often the result of a long-term degenerative process wherein the fibers of the ligament deteriorate over the course of the animal’s lifetime.
What Can I Do to Prevent My Dog from Experiencing an ACL Tear?
It’s critical that your dog be able to live its life to the fullest! That means running, jumping, and playing outside like normal. In fact, regular activity can actually help your dog develop strong muscles that will support their joints and prevent tears in the ACL. It’s also important to maintain your dog’s weight—obesity can put undo strain on the joints and put them at greater risk for damage. Lastly, dogs with medial luxating patella (a condition that causes the kneecap to pop out of its joint) can take steps to correct that condition, which could lead to an ACL tear if left untreated.
I Think My Dog Has a Torn ACL. What Now?
Depending on your dog and the severity of symptoms, there are two primary courses of treatment. Medical management can involve prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to help with pain control. Other non-surgical treatment options include rest to keep the burden off the joint and stabilize the knee, as well as physical therapy to actively strengthen the knee and prevent further damage in the future. For more severe tears, or injuries in which medical management has proved insufficient, surgical stabilization is another treatment option. Schedule a consultation with your primary care veterinarian to see which option is best for your dog!