Can A Dog Live with a Torn ACL?

You notice that your dog is limping slightly after a particularly exciting game of fetch. It’s possible they tore their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), which is commonly called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). For the purpose of this article, we will be using the colloquial term ACL as we refer to injuries in dog’s knees. The ACL is the ligament in the knee that connects the upper thigh bone to the bone below the knee. Can your dog live with a torn ACL?

The simple answer is yes, your dog can live with a torn ACL. However, your dog’s knees are not like humans. A dog’s tear can worsen over time or lead to other health complications. There are ways you can help your canine heal or lessen the strain on their injured leg.

Remember though, the bigger your pet is, the harder it is for their legs to heal on their own simply due to your dog’s weight.

Opting to Avoid Dog ACL Surgery

Most canine ACL injuries begin small, such as a sprain, so surgery may not even be required. There are alternative methods that can mend a small tear such as anti-inflammatory drugs, dog leg braces, physical therapy, nutritional support, and more.

Even then, there is no guarantee that your dog will be healed. Pet Helpful found that about 85% of dogs that weighed less than 30 pounds improved without surgery following a strict physical therapy routine, while only 19% of canines over 30 pounds showed signs of improvement.

Be wary of using physical therapy if you cannot monitor your dog’s movements, as your dog is still at risk to further the tear if they overexert their injured leg.

If you opt to leave the injury alone, you dog will continue to experience pain as they use their injured leg. Like a human with a sprained ankle trying to walk, your dog will limp and put more weight on their opposite side. This can lead to arthritis in your dog’s injured knee joint and heightens the risk of your dog tearing their ACL in their other leg.

Without surgery, your dog’s body will attempt to stabilize its leg with scar tissues, which is not strong enough to keep the knee healthy over a long period of time. Scar tissue also limits range of motion and can stiffen your dog’s joint.

If the injury does not heal and your dog prefers to keep weight off their leg, muscle atrophy can occur. This is where muscle is lost due to lack of movement and exercise.

If your dog’s leg heals on its own, great! If you still notice that your dog is limping or apathetic after 3-6 weeks, bring them back to your vet and see what options you can take to help.

Why A Brace Works for ACL Injuries

If you choose to take a conservative healing approach with medication and physical therapy, a brace is a must. Just remember that torn ACLs will not heal on their own! Scar tissue will stabilize the limb overtime, but that will lead to health complications such as arthritis down the road.

Doggy Brace offers non-rigid braces designed for dogs diagnosed with sprained ACLs or joint pain, or for dogs that cannot undergo surgery. A brace offers therapeutic support and stabilization both before and after surgery. This promotes the use of the leg without your dog feeling the need to overcompensate by shifting their weight. Consistently using a brace also increases your dog’s chances of healing without surgery.

If your dog is moving in a limited, but supported way, it has a better chance of strengthening its knee joint and avoiding arthritis and muscle atrophy.

If you and your vet decide that your dog needs surgery, using a brace speeds up your dog’s recovery as it stabilizes their leg while limiting mobility. A dog can still walk in a brace, which allows it to rebuild muscle around its healing knee to prevent muscle atrophy and stiffness.

Your Dog’s Road to Recovery

A torn ACL is not a death sentence for dogs. In fact, it is one of the most common injuries in canines. Some are even more susceptible to tearing their ACLS than others, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Bichon Frises, and Newfoundlands, according to Dog Knee Injury. No matter what route you and your vet choose to try, it’s up to you to make sure your dog is on the proper road to recovery.

Be observant of their movement and needs. If you notice your dog is acting weird, avoiding using their injured leg, or preferring to lay down and rest rather and get up and walk, talk with your vet to see if a brace can help alleviate your dog’s pain.

Your dog will feed off your energy too. Use calm and encouraging tones while they’re in pain and be sure to comfort them with gentle pets.

Block off the stairs and make sure they have easy access to comfortable nap spots.

Doggy Brace can help too. Support your dog through this tough time by investing in a non-invasive healing method that works. Check out our sizing chart to find the right fit that will put your dog back on the road to recovery.