First off it is important to understand that the terminology “dog acl tear” is actually a layman’s term. A veterinarian will refer to it as a cranial cruciate ligament rupture in dogs. To keep things simple though we will continue to use the term “dog acl.”
In order to fully understand this injury it helps to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of a dogs knee. The knee, often referred to as the stifle by veterinarians, is the joint in between the femur and the tibia in the hind leg.
Inside of this joint there is cartilage, joint fluid, two meniscus and of course the dog cruciate ligaments, of which there are two of them crisscross. These crisscross cruciate ligaments provides much of the knees stability and is responsible for keeping the tibia from sliding too far forward, or too far backward when the dog bends their knee.
On the outside of the knee joint there are a series of other ligaments which also provide some stability but we are not going to get into that right now.
*Important Fact You Need to Understand* Dog acl tears are classified as either partial tears or complete tears. It is important to have a veterinarian determine the degree of injury to your dogs knee. This will provide more insight into the best solution for treatment and recovery.
It is also very important to understand that dog acl injuries are hands down the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. In fact it has been reported that 85% of all orthopedic injuries in dogs are some form of ACL injury.
In addition, due to the instability this creates in your dogs joint, it is also one of the main causes of degenerative joint disease (DJD), more commonly known as arthritis in dogs.
All dogs are at potential risk of tearing their ACL. According to research no one particular gender, breed or age dog is at more risk. That said, the most commonly reported dogs with ACL injury’s are young, active, large-breed dogs, such as Mastiffs, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds to name a few, but small dogs can also sustain ACL injuries as well.
Additionally, overweight dogs are at greater risk of rupturing their ACL ligament than healthy, well-conditioned dogs.
The vast majority of ACL injuries in dogs are a result of a “HyperExtension of the Knee Joint.” This is way in humans, the most common people who blow their ACL are football players or basketball players, because they are continually “thrusting forward” ie. hyperextension. Some of the more common scenarios reported from dog owners revolve around the dog chasing a squirrel in the backyard or playing hard with friend.A TopDog Theory About Why So Many Dog Tear Their ACL:
What is most important though is how to prevent the same injury to your dogs other hind leg.
Listen Very Closely: Since your dog has injured one hind leg, they are having to compensate on their 3 other “good” legs. This compensation puts the other legs, back and joints at greater risk of injury. It is estimated that 30-50% of dogs who tear one ACL will tear the other ACL within a few years. The reason for this is very simple. Lack of physical therapy and proper conditioning after surgery and lack of good joint health supplements. It is as simple as that.
Pet owners often report hearing their dog “yelp” in pain and then start limping after their dog injures the ACl. But in many cases the pet owner never hears any cry and all of sudden notices their dog limping or not putting any weight on the hind leg.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow:
For best diagnosis it is imperative that you seek the advice of a veterinarian who is familiar with diagnosing dog ACL tears. Diagnosis is based on demonstration of a specific test, called the cranial drawer test. This is best performed with the dog lying in its side in a relaxed state. Because it is so important that the dog is relaxed in many cases slight anesthesia or sedation is need for best results.
The examining veterinarian positions their thumb and forefinger of one hand on the femur, and the other hand is placed on the tibia. The femur is held in place while the other hand shifts the tibia backward and forward.
In a normal, stable joint, there will be little to no motion ie. instability. Rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament allows the tibia to slide forward. Therefore, a positive cranial drawer test is indicative of cruciate ligament damage.
Another test that is used to diagnose dog ACL tears is the tibial compression test. In this assessment, one hand is placed around the end of the femur, with the index finger extended over the patella. The other hand grasps the foot, and flexes the hock (ankle). If the tibia moves forward, it is an indication of ACL damage.
Another valuable test is to have radiographs ie. xrays taken of the knees and the hips. This is a great way to rule out other causes of lameness such as fractures or hip problems. In additions, xrays will also show any signs of arthritis.
A more elaborate and advanced form of diagnosis would be arthroscopy, in which a small camera is used to look inside of the joint and see the degree of damage.
Dog ACL tears or cranial cruciate ligament ruptures can be treated both medically or surgically. However, understand these simple guidelines:
In general, surgical stabilization is recommended in all patients with a ACL tears, both full tears and partial tears that are compromised greater than 50%.Surgical Options:
There are a number of surgical techniques to choose from. Your veterinarian can help you decide which surgical procedure is best for your dog, based on these considerations:
Here are the three most common recommended surgeries with basic descriptions of each. For a more complete understanding of each surgery follow the links to the TopDog Orthopedic Surgery Library. Each surgery page has photos and diagrams to help you understand the entire process.
Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to prevent ACL injuries in dogs. The best you can do is to keep your dog in ideal body conditions, exercise them regularly, give them high quality joint supplements that are balanced and optimized for ideal joint health and avoid excessive high jumping.
Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for improving the long term prognosis and will minimize the progression of degenerative joint disease (DJD) or arthritis. The worse case scenarios are the dogs who have a partial tear that goes undiagnosed for a long period of time. The chronic instability in the joints leads to arthritis and the compensation leads to potential injury to the other legs.
Though reported statistics vary, it is estimated that on average 30-50% of dogs who tear one ACL will tear the opposite ACL within a few years. As mentioned previously this is entirely due to compensation stress, which overtime is a result of lack of proper post-surgery physical therapy and the proper use of joint health supplements which can make a huge difference in improving the overall health of the joints.
The reality is this. If after surgery you do the following:
Your dog will do amazing, just like the thousands of others that TopDogHealth has helped throughout the years.