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Torn ACL in Dogs: Signs, Diagnosis, and How Orthopedic Surgery Can Help

By June 1, 2024No Comments

Discovering your beloved dog might have a torn ACL can tug at any pet owner’s heartstrings. We understand the concern and anxiety that comes with this diagnosis, as statistics show one in five dogs may endure this uncomfortable condition.

Our deep dive into research aims to illuminate the signs of an ACL tear, the diagnostic process, and how orthopedic surgery can offer much-needed relief. This article will navigate you through comprehending what an ACL tear signifies for your furry friend and the pathways to their recovery.

Continue reading for both hope and assistance in this challenging time.

Understanding ACL Injuries in Dogs

What is ACL?

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, in dogs, plays a crucial role in stabilizing their knee joints. It prevents the over-extending and over-rotating of the knee, ensuring that our furry friends can run and play without pain.

Unfortunately, injuries to this vital part of a dog’s anatomy are quite common. Known as cranial cruciate ligament disease (CCLD) when referring to canines, these common knee injuries cause not only immediate discomfort but can also lead to long-term issues like arthritis.

Injuries to the ACL can occur from both sudden movements and chronic wear and tear. Once torn, it disrupts the normal function of the knee joint, leading to pain and limited mobility for dogs.

Recognizing signs such as limping or reluctance to use a leg is key for early intervention. With proper diagnosis through physical examinations and imaging tests, we move towards addressing canine ACL injuries effectively—ushering us into exploring treatment options which include orthopedic surgery for significant relief and recovery.

Causes of ACL Injuries

Understanding the anatomy and role of the ACL in dogs sets the stage to explore what leads to its injury. ACL injuries, or cranial cruciate ligament tears, in dogs often result from a combination of physical activity and underlying health issues.

  • Sudden Movements: Abrupt stops or changes in direction during play can put excessive pressure on the ACL. This sudden stress might cause it to tear.
  • Degenerative Changes: Over time, wear and tear can weaken the ligament, making it more susceptible to injury. Age-related degeneration is a common factor behind canine ACL injuries.
  • Obesity: Carrying extra weight increases stress on all joints, including the knees, making proper weight management crucial. For overweight dogs, this amplified strain can lead to an increased risk of tearing their ACL.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some dog breeds are more prone to ACL injuries due to genetic factors that affect their overall joint health or conformation.

Each of these causes highlights how crucial maintaining a healthy lifestyle and monitoring for early signs of discomfort is in preventing severe outcomes related to torn ACLs in dogs.

Signs of a torn Ligament

  • Limping or showing reluctance to put weight on one of their legs
  • Swelling around the knee joint
  • Decreased activity due to pain
  • Abnormal movement in the knee joint
  • Stiffness and evident pain during movements
  • Difficulty trying to stand up after long periods of rest
  • Hesitance to jump or play
  • Persistent licking at the joint area
  • Restricted activity
  • Leg lameness

An Intro to Orthopedic Surgery

We’re here to guide you through the journey of orthopedic surgery for dogs with ACL injuries. This type of surgery aims to repair the damaged ACL, bringing relief and improved mobility to your furry friend.

Preparing for the Surgical Procedure

  1. We start by scheduling a thorough pre-operative consultation with the veterinarian to discuss the specifics of the canine orthopedic surgery. This includes understanding how ACL injuries in dogs, such as cranial cruciate ligament tears or CCLD (Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease), will be addressed during the procedure.
  2. Next, we follow the vet’s instructions for preparing our dog for surgery, which might involve fasting for a certain number of hours before the operation to ensure their stomach is empty. It’s crucial to adhere to these guidelines to avoid complications during anesthesia.
  3. We also prepare a comfortable recovery area at home where our dog can rest and heal post-surgery without risk of injury. Ensuring they have a quiet spot away from stairs or slippery floors can help prevent additional strain on their healing knee joint.
  4. Gathering all necessary post-operative care supplies ahead of time is another step we take seriously. From recommended medications for pain management to items that might help with canine knee rehabilitation, having everything ready will make the recovery process smoother for both us and our pet.

Through these steps, we aim to ensure that our dog receives the best possible care before going into orthopedic surgery and comes out ready for a smooth recovery leading towards improved mobility and quality of life.

What to Expect during the Procedure

During the procedure,

  1. Our team first administers anesthesia to ensure your dog feels no pain. This step is crucial for a smooth surgery and the comfort of your canine friend.
  2. After your dog is safely sedated, we proceed with the orthopedic surgery, which might involve surgical techniques like tibia plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) if dealing with an ACL tear.
  3. Throughout this process, we constantly monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels to keep everything under control. Surgeons use specialized equipment to repair the torn ACL in dogs, aiming to restore mobility and alleviate discomfort caused by CCLD Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease or other types of canine cruciate ligament injuries.
  4. Finally, as we finish the surgical corrections necessary for healing their traumatic injury – be it a cranial cruciate ligament tear or another related condition – our focus shifts towards ensuring a safe wake-up from anesthesia.

Aftercare Tips

  1. Always keep a close eye on your dogs after canine orthopedic surgery, especially in the initial weeks. It’s crucial to ensure they rest and don’t jump or run, which might harm their recovery process. Following the veterinarian’s instructions for care at home is key to helping our furry friend heal properly.
  2. Regular follow-up visits with the vet help us track our dog’s progress post-surgery. We manage chronic pain with prescribed medications and adjust activities based on professional advice. Setting up a comfortable resting area away from stairs and slippery floors supports safer healing for our canine companion.
  3. Incorporate gentle exercises as recommended by the vet aids in strengthening your dog’s muscles without putting undue stress on the healing leg. We carefully monitor their movements to prevent any strain that could lead to further injuries or setbacks in recovery.
  4. For emotional support, spend quality time with our pet, reassuring them through gentle petting and calm talking. Their comfort is important, so keeping them engaged with low-energy activities offers both mental stimulation and physical rest during this recovery period.


We always evaluate each dog’s health condition before recommending canine orthopedic surgery for a torn ACL. Some dogs might face higher risks during surgery due to their specific health issues.

  • Severe heart conditions
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Advanced age
  • Extreme obesity
  • Intense infections

Making the Decision

Choosing the right treatment for your dog after an ACL injury involves careful thought. We explore how orthopedic surgery can offer relief and improve quality of life, while also considering its risks.

The Benefits of Orthopedic Surgery

  • Reduces the pain and discomfort
  • Stabilizes the knee joint
  • Prevents further damage
  • Improves the overall joint function
  • Faster recovery
  • Lower risk of less developing secondary conditions
  • Enhances mobility and increased range of motion
  • Improves quality of life

The Risks

Complications can occur, including infection at the surgery site or issues with the implants used during the procedure. These situations may require additional treatments or surgeries.

During recovery from dog ACL surgery, there’s a risk of re-injury if proper aftercare and rehabilitation aren’t followed. Dogs must limit their activity level to ensure healing, but too much movement can lead to setbacks in recovery.

Moreover, even after successful surgery, some dogs may still develop arthritis in the affected joint over time, which could affect their mobility and quality of life. It is important to work with an experienced veterinary surgeon to avoid complications.

Schedule Your Pets’ Torn ACL with Orthopedic Surgery Today!

We’ve explored the critical aspects of torn ACL in dogs, from recognizing signs to understanding the healing impact of orthopedic surgery. Recognizing signs early and getting an accurate diagnosis can prevent further damage to your dog’s knee.

Orthopedic surgery offers a path towards stabilizing the joint and improving your furry friend’s quality of life. Isn’t it time we ensure our pets get back on their feet with as little pain as possible? We encourage you to reach out for expert care.

Schedule an appointment with Veterinary Medical Center of Rancho Cordova today, and let us guide your dog towards a healthier, more comfortable life. Your pet deserves the best care, and we’re here to provide it with compassion and expertise.