How can you determine if your dog has torn their ACL?

What is the ACL in dogs?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial ligament in the knee joint of dogs. It connects the femur bone to the tibia bone and helps to stabilize the joint during movement. When the ACL is stretched or torn, it can cause severe pain, instability, and lameness in dogs. ACL injuries are one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs, especially in large breeds and active dogs.

Causes of ACL injuries in dogs

ACL injuries usually occur due to sudden twisting or turning movements of the knee joint. Dogs who engage in high-impact activities such as jumping, running, and playing are at higher risk of ACL injuries. Obesity is also a major factor that increases the risk of ACL injuries in dogs since it puts more stress on the joints. Additionally, genetics, age, and underlying health conditions such as arthritis can also increase the likelihood of ACL injuries in dogs.

Symptoms of a torn ACL in dogs

The symptoms of a torn ACL in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some common signs include limping, reluctance to put weight on the affected leg, swelling, and stiffness in the knee joint. Dogs with a torn ACL may also have difficulty standing up, climbing stairs, or jumping. In severe cases, dogs may experience sudden pain and collapse while walking or running.

How to perform a physical exam on your dog

To determine if your dog has torn their ACL, you can perform a physical exam at home. First, observe your dog’s gait and look for any signs of limping or favoring one leg. Next, gently manipulate the knee joint to check for instability or pain. You can also perform the drawer test, which involves pushing and pulling the tibia bone forward and backward to assess the stability of the joint.

Diagnostic tests for canine ACL injuries

To confirm a diagnosis of ACL tear, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. These tests can help to assess the extent of the injury, identify any additional damage, and plan the best course of treatment.

How to interpret X-rays for ACL tears

X-rays can help to rule out other conditions such as fractures or joint abnormalities that may be causing your dog’s symptoms. However, X-rays alone may not be sufficient to diagnose an ACL tear. In some cases, a visible gap in the joint or abnormal alignment of bones may suggest an ACL tear.

MRI and CT scans for canine ACL injuries

MRI and CT scans are advanced imaging techniques that can provide detailed images of the knee joint and surrounding tissues. These tests can help to identify the exact location and severity of the ACL tear, as well as any associated damage to the joint.

Types of ACL surgery for dogs

Surgery is often the best treatment option for dogs with a torn ACL. There are several surgical techniques available, including traditional open surgery, arthroscopy, and TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy). Your veterinarian will recommend the best surgical approach based on your dog’s age, size, and the extent of the injury.

Post-surgery recovery for dogs with ACL injuries

After surgery, your dog will need to rest and limit their activity level for several weeks. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication, antibiotics, and physical therapy to help your dog recover. It is essential to follow your veterinarian’s post-surgery instructions carefully to ensure a successful recovery.

Physical therapy for dogs with ACL tears

Physical therapy can help to improve your dog’s strength, flexibility, and range of motion after ACL surgery. Your veterinarian may recommend exercises such as hydrotherapy, massage, and passive range of motion to help your dog recover.

Preventing future ACL injuries in dogs

To prevent future ACL injuries in dogs, it is essential to maintain a healthy weight, provide regular exercise, and avoid high-impact activities. Additionally, providing your dog with a supportive orthopedic bed and joint supplements can help to protect their joints and reduce the risk of injury.

When to seek veterinary care for your dog’s ACL injury

If you suspect that your dog has torn their ACL, it is essential to seek veterinary care promptly. Delaying treatment can lead to further damage to the joint and may require more extensive and costly treatment. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough examination, provide an accurate diagnosis, and recommend the best course of treatment for your dog’s specific needs.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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