Can a Dog Live with a Torn ACL? - Doggy Brace

Every dog owner’s heart drops when they hear their beloved furry friend has a torn anterior cruciate ligament, commonly referred to as a torn ACL. But did you know that dogs don’t actually have ACLs? They have what is called a CrCL (cranial cruciate ligament), and is essentially the very same thing as an ACL and serves the same purpose.  If you don’t know much about this injury, it can lead you to ask yourself, “Can a dog live with a torn ACL?” And for good reason. It’s a serious injury, often associated with significant discomfort and mobility challenges.

However, it’s essential to remember that a ruptured CrCL is not a death sentence for your dog. On the contrary, with the right treatment plan and ongoing care, dogs can not only live with a ruptured CrCL — but thrive and enjoy their daily routines like usual.

Understanding a Ruptured CrCL

Before we deep-dive into how dogs can recover from a ruptured CRCL, let’s quickly understand what it is. The cranial cruciate ligament, or CrCL, is one of the major ligaments in a dog’s knee. It connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), helping to stabilize the knee joint. When this ligament is torn or ruptured, it can cause considerable pain and lameness.

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, CrCL injuries are among the most common orthopedic problems in dogs, and they can occur due to various reasons such as trauma, obesity, or breed predispositions. 

What Does it Look Like?

A ruptured CrCL doesn’t have a particular “look” that can be seen with the naked eye, but it significantly affects a dog’s behavior and mobility. A dog suffering from this injury will exhibit limping, difficulty getting up or rising, swelling around the knee, extreme pain or discomfort, and stiffness after resting for long periods of time.

You may also notice that your pup is sitting differently; one leg may be sticking out to one side rather than being tucked under their body like normal. And finally, you’ll probably notice that your dog isn’t very interested in activity. They might not want to play or go for walks.

And who would when your knee is in excruciating pain?

Recovery Options

When it comes to recovery from a ruptured CrCL, there are several options, including both surgical and non-surgical approaches. Each method has its merits, and the choice often depends on the dog’s size, age, and overall health condition.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is typically recommended for larger breeds or dogs with full CrCL tears. The most common surgical procedures include tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA), and extracapsular repair. These surgeries aim to restore the stability of the knee joint by altering the biomechanics of the joint or replacing the torn ligament with a synthetic one. The recovery period can vary, but most dogs start to improve within a few weeks of the operation and reach their maximum recovery in about three to six months. We really liked this personal blog written by a dog mom who documented her pup’s recovery journey. You can read that here.

Non-Surgical Treatment

For smaller dogs or those with partial tears, non-surgical treatment can be a viable option. This approach often involves a combination of rest, physical therapy, pain management, and use of supportive devices like knee braces.

A well-structured physical therapy program can aid in muscle strengthening, pain reduction, and overall mobility improvement. In addition, the use of knee braces, such as those offered by Doggy Brace, can provide additional support to the affected leg, helping to stabilize the joint and prevent further injury.

The Role of Doggy Brace in Ruptured CrCL Recovery

Here at Doggy Brace, we understand the distress and worry that comes with a torn ACL diagnosis for your dog. That’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves to providing a range of high-quality, adjustable, and comfortable knee braces to support your dog’s recovery journey.

Our braces are designed to stabilize the knee joint, reducing pain and inflammation while promoting healing. Our knee braces offer a non-invasive, affordable option for managing ACL tears, particularly useful for dogs that may not be ideal candidates for surgery or as part of a comprehensive post-surgical recovery plan.

X-ray film of dog lateral view with red highlight in hip and knee joint pain areas


In conclusion, a torn ACL (ruptured CrCL) is undoubtedly a serious condition, but it is not a death sentence. With the right care, treatment, and supportive measures, your dog can recover and return to enjoying life. Remember, the aim is not just to help your dog live with a ruptured CrCL, but to thrive despite it.

What really matters most is consulting with your veterinarian. Together, decide that the best approach is for your dog’s specific situation. Every dog is unique, and what works best will depend on how healthy your pup is, how old they are, and how bad their injury is.

If you and your vet have decided on a non-surgical approach or are looking to supplemental support post-surgery, a knee brace from Doggy Brace can be a valuable part of your dog’s recovery plan. Our braces are designed for your dog’s comfort and recovery in mind, our team is always ready to assist you in selecting the right brace for your furry friend.
We know this can be very stressful and scary. Seeing an animal you love suffer can be not only heartbreaking, but traumatizing for you both. We hope this blog post has provided some valuable insight and reassurance about torn ACLs in dogs. While it’s a challenging situation, remember that with the right care and support, your dog can recover and continue to live a happy, fulfilling life.