Common Causes for Dog ACL Injuries

Some breeds of dogs are more prone to Anterior/Cranial Cruciate Ligament (ACL/CCL) injuries than others. Newfoundlands, Labradors Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bichon Frise and St. Bernard have higher risks of tearing their ACLs, while Greyhounds rarely get injured.

Common Causes for Dog ACL Injuries

All dogs can tear their ACL, no matter their breed. But why is it more common in some dogs than others?

Age, weight, physical activity and breed all play a factor. When it comes to weight, obesity in all dogs increase their chance of health issues or physical ailments. There is also a genetic component for torn ACLs – some dogs may be more prone than others due to their breeding line.

Other non-breed specific predispositions include a lack of muscle and improper muscle development and injuries from physical activity or accidents. 

ACL Hereditary Risks

Any dog can have ACL problems due to genetic predispositions.

St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Rottweilers are among a few breeds to be prone orthopedic issues such as hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is when the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone, which easily allows for the hip to become disjointed.

The condition usually causes dogs to shift their weight unevenly and they often overcompensate and cause strain on their other legs.

Hip dysplasia is hereditary and can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. It is very common in Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Bichon Frises.

Dr. Jeff Grognet of the American Kennel Club shared a story about a 5-month old Golden Retriever puppy named Chester came into his examination room with wobbly legs. The owner Chester from a breeder. Chester’s father’s hips were excellent, but his mother’s were never tested. Sadly for Chester, he inherited his mother’s hip dysplasia.

If you get your pup from a breeder, make sure you ask about disease history for both of its parents, as hip issues can lead to torn ACLs as the dog gets older..

Weight and ACLs

Even the smallest dog breeds, like a Bichon Frise, which typically weigh 6-11 pounds, can have ACL problems due to weight. The New York Times reported that slightly more than 56 percent of dogs are overweight.

Excessive weight adds stress on joints and ligaments. Obese dogs put stress on their ligament with every step they take that causes their ACL to begin to degenerate. If the weight is not lost, the risk of rupturing their ACL grows.

Recovery is harder for an obese dog as well. The extra pounds can worsen the tear and prolong healing.

Obese dogs tend not to get enough exercise. Regular movement can strengthen their limbs and tone their muscles, which reduces the risk of your dog tearing its ACL.

Over Exercising Your Dog

Everything is good in moderation, exercise included. Consider not being active for a week and then going out on a hike for five hours. After it, you’re more than likely going to be sore. The same can be said for your dog.

Depending on your dog’s daily level of physical activity, one long excursion could raise your pup’s chances for a torn ACL. This is also known as Weekend Warrior Syndrome, where your dog is a warrior on the weekend but a nap machine during the week. In other words, if your canine is used to only quick walks during potty breaks, consider against taking them out on more strenuous activities and make plans that match their current lifestyle and health.

Older Dogs are More at Risk

Middle aged and older dogs most commonly rupture their ACLs because of progressive degenerative changes in their ligaments and muscles.

Torn ACLs in younger dogs are less common and are often caused by trauma or injury. Oftentimes, younger dogs are more energetic and can overexert themselves. They can turn too quickly while running or be overzealous with a jump, which can lead to ACL injuries.


All dogs are at risk for torn ACLs though some are more prone to ruptures due to age, breed, weight and more.

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