There is no dog in the world that does not enjoy running and doing zoomies. Even the laziest of them all tend to stretch those lazy legs from time to time. But dogs, just like humans can experience orthopedic problems which tend to be expensive to treat.
What is ACL in dogs?
ACL is the short term for Anterior Cruciate Ligament and it is more commonly used in human medicine. When it comes to dogs, vets prefer the term CCL which is short for Cranial Cruciate Ligament.
The cranial cruciate ligament is a tender in the dog’s knee that keeps it stable during movement. But dogs being goofy as they are can sometimes hurt themselves, which could lead to a partial or complete tear of this ligament.
This is a painful and rather common injury in dogs, same as in athletes, and if left untreated could cause issues and a possible inability for the dog to move its leg properly.
It is thought that in some dog breeds such as the Newfoundland and the Labrador Retriever, it can be a genetic trait that is given from parents to progeny.
What can lead to ACL rupture in dogs?
As mentioned above even though it has some genetic traits, this condition usually affects large and medium breeds of dogs. Different factors can contribute in different ways when it comes to partial or complete rupture of the CCL ligament, such as age, obesity, and activity.
It is important to mention that this is a condition that usually presents on one limb, but dogs tend to compensate on the other limb, which is why it is not a surprise to vets when the same patient returns for a second treatment for the other leg.
What are the symptoms in dogs that have torn ACL?
The first thing every owner will notice is that their dog starts to limp on one leg or it feels off when they are walking. The easiest way to notice this is when you take your usually playful dog to the park and they are hesitant to run as much as they used to and prefer to stay close to you.
Other signs of a tear of the ligament are when the dog has difficulty getting up even if they are just sitting. In general, the dog will not be as active as they were before the injury.
How do vets diagnose ACL tear in dogs?
Whenever you bring in your dog for a check-up with a complaint of lameness, your vet will ask you questions about when you noticed this and how it started. They may ask you to walk the dog outside so that they can observe the movement themselves.
They may also suggest doing some diagnostics such as x-ray and CT, but the most important way that helps them determine if this is a rupture of the ACL is when they do an orthopedic examination. A specific technique is used, known as the “drawer test” that helps the vet or orthopedic surgeon determine the extent of the injury in your dog’s knee. Have in mind that for this your dog will probably need to be sedated.
Treatment options for dogs with ruptured ACL
The only way to fix a ruptured ACL in dogs is with ACL surgery. Depending on the experience of the vet, he may be the one performing it or he may refer you to a bigger orthopedic hospital where an orthopedic surgeon will perform the surgery.
There are several surgical techniques that are used for fixing this injury and which one your surgeon will choose depends on your dog’s breed, size, age, activity, and weight. But what is common for all of the techniques is the recovery period.
The surgery part is the easy one. The recovery is the one that will determine whether your dog will make a full recovery. This is why it is important to strictly follow the recommendations for post-operative recovery.
Depending on the technique that is used the owner should be expected to pay between $750 and $6000 to treat their Dog’s ACL.