Should You Euthanize a Dog with a Torn ACL?

Should you euthanize a dog with torn ACL? In our humble opinion, no, you should not euthanize a dog if it has a torn ACL. A dog can live a normal life, even with an injured leg! Sure, they may not be able to walk as smoothly as they once did, but they can and will recover, even without surgery. So let’s look at why a dog with a torn ACL is just that: a dog with an injury that can be healed. 

First, let’s explain what a torn ACL is. Before we begin, it’s important to remember that a dog only has knees and ACLs (technically a CCL — cranial cruciate ligament) in their hind legs. Neither are present in their front limbs. Their back legs have femurs and tibias and between those, are their knees and ACL. 

Femurs — the top bone in a leg — are rounded at the bottom. The tibia — the bottom bone, also known as the shinbone — has a flat top. So in your dog’s hind legs, a rounded bone is sitting on a tilted flat surface. The two bones are connected by  the ACL. This is important because the shape of your dog’s hind leg means that their ACL is always under some strain when their standing, walking, or running. Because of this,  knee injuries are most often caused by your dog twisting its knee too quickly, such as if they change direction too quickly while running. That’s why the most common knee injury any dog can get is a tear or sprain to their ACL.

(An illustration of a dog’s skeletal anatomy. The tibia is highlighted in red).

How a Torn ACL Impacts Your Dog

If your dog tore its ACL, it’s possible that it’s a minor or major sprain. Minor sprains will cause your dog some discomfort and they may limp, but should not be a cause for concern. Limit their activity and don’t let them run around for a couple weeks and it should heal without any problem. 

Major sprains, which are torn ACLs, can cause lameness in your dog’s leg, an unwillingness for them to put weight on it, pain, and general slowness as they recover. 

Standard Treatment for a Torn ACL

The only way to fully heal a torn ACL is surgery. The procedure reconstructs your dog’s ACL so it won’t cause them pain once healed. The procedure is invasive, costly, and has a long recovery period, but it is worth it to help your dog live a long and happy life. 

But all of this is never a reason to euthanize your pet. An ACL, without surgery, can’t heal itself, but it can stabilize over time! If you have a senior dog where surgery is not an option, a torn ACL is not a death sentence. If you are patient with your dog and use proper conservative treatment methods such as a sling, a brace, hydrotherapy, limited activity, or physical therapy, scar tissue will form and the limb will stabilize and strengthen. Remember that the formation of scar tissue is not a true heal, but it will help your dog walk and run again. 

Talk with your vet about the best route to take for your dog. Be sure you understand what a torn ACL is, how it will impact your dog’s quality of life in the short and long term, and alternative treatment methods.  

Why Use a Dog ACL Brace To Help

Do you know why an athlete wears a knee brace? It helps prevent excessive movement and rotation while supporting the athlete’s knee and reducing the risk of injury. The same is said for dog knee and ACL braces. Doggy Brace products comfortably restrict movement while supporting your dog’s leg. So if surgery isn’t an option for your dog, consider getting them a brace to help them move around while they’re recovering. A brace is more affordable than many conservative treatments, more humane than euthanization, and provides a permanent and supportive solution for your recovering pup. 

In addition to all that, Doggy Brace offers affordable preventive solutions that keep your dog healthy and happy. They’re easy to use and sizing them is as easy as measuring your dog’s leg and weight. If you’re interested, check them out today!

The Reality of a Torn ACL

The reality of most ACL injuries is that not all of them will happen immediately. In fact, a majority of leg issues develop over time from unhealthy ACLs. 

The cruciate ligament (ACL) is made of many filament-like bands that start to tear and fray over time as it undergoes strain. These a mild sprains that will heal on their own with time and patience. If it’s not treated, mild sprain can turn into partial tears or full tears from sudden movements. While the injury does cause your dog discomfort and may lead to temporary lameness, it is not a death sentence!

While a partial or full tear is costly to repair ($2,500-$5,000 depending on the type of surgery), choosing to forgo surgery does not sentence your dog to a lifetime of pain! Your dog’s leg will stabilize on its own if you limited their activity in about six months. They may experience some pain from time to time, but will not impact your dog’s way of life. Once healed, they will still be the same energetic and loving pet that you’ve always known. There is an increased chance of arthritis forming in their leg after the injury, but that is completely manageable with proper diet, exercise, and a leg brace.

So, when it comes down to it, do not euthanize a dog with torn ACL. Dogs are extremely resilient. Give them the chance they deserve to heal so they can continue to shower you with unbridled love and affection. 

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