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Dog ACL Injuries

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Dog ACL Injuries

The ACL, or Anterior cruciate ligament, in dogs is the ligament in the hind leg that helps to keep the knee cap in place making it possible for a dog to walk, run and jump properly. Injury to this ligament can result in pain, limping and the severe curtailing of many of a dog's natural activities. When the ACL is damaged the knee cap floats around and can grind on other bones and the knee joint causing pain and irreparable damage to the dog's leg. For that reason it is imperative that you seek immediate treatment for such, as well as to prevent further injury to minimize damage and help the dog start to heal.

Dogs Most At Risk For ACL Injuries

While any dog may suffer from an ACL injury there are certain dogs due to their breed or health condition that are more at risk for ACL injuries than others. Obesity regardless of breed is a major cause of ACL injuries in dogs. In addition, the following breeds are more at risk to suffer such injuries: Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Poodle, German Shepherd Dog, Bichon Frise and Rottweiler. Studies have also revealed that male dogs that have been neutered prior to 5 months of age seemed to also be at risk for ACL injuries.
German Shepherd Dogs are prone to ACL injuries.


While some dogs may show no sign of injury until the ACL ruptures others begin to show symptoms due to tearing of the ACL. Anything from a slight limp to the dog being unable to put weight on the affected back leg may be a sign of ACL injury. You may also notice swelling on the inside of the knee of the dog. Dogs who suffer from an ACL injury in one leg are more likely to injure the ACL in the other hind leg as well.


Proper diagnosis of an ACL injury can only be done by a trained veterinarian. Diagnosis includes a physical exam and an X-ray to discover the extent of the injury and to rule out any other cause for the pain and limping.


For dogs weighing 30 pounds or less, the Vet may decide on a course of treatment where surgery is avoided. This treatment will consist of anti-inflammatory medications, weight loss if the dog has Dog Obesity and rest for between 6 weeks and 2 months followed by gentle exercise. In dogs over 30 pounds, surgery is almost always used to treat the ACL injury. The type of the surgery depends on how severely the ACL may be damaged.

Along with surgery the Vet will recommend limited activity and rest for the dog for up to 8 weeks as well as suggesting that you do a little physical therapy at home. Whilst keeping a dog's activities restricted may be difficult it is necessary to the healing process and you may have to keep the dog in a crate when you cannot be on hand to closely supervise his activities. Excessive use of the leg before the injury is completely healed can lead to further and perhaps permanent damage to the limb.


While it is impossible to reduce all risk to the dog for suffering this type of injury, keeping your dog at a healthy weight and reducing the possibility of injury whenever possible may reduce some of the risk.

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