It seems that the longer we are in business, the more we hear about ACL tears in dog’s knees. We’ve helped a number of dogs avoid surgery when their ACL was partially torn, and we’ve worked with an even greater number of dogs who had surgery, to get them back to normal function again. ACL tears are by far the most common of all orthopedic injury in dogs, up to 85% of all orthopedic injuries.
That being said, the most commonly reported injuries are happening in young, active, large breed dogs, such as retrievers, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. Additionally, overweight, out of shape dogs are at greater risk of an ACL tear than dogs who are physically well-conditioned.
There is also some research that indicates that early spay or neuter is causing dogs to have a greater risk of an ACL tear. This is because of the way the bones grow. Early spay and neuter delays the growing process causing some bones to grow longer than they should. This changes the angle of the knee joint, which can lead to knee problems.
Some dog owners report hearing a yelp, then the dog begins limping. Others notice that all of a sudden the dog is either limping or not putting any weight on that leg. How much pressure your dog puts on that leg often can indicate the severity of the tear.
Most veterinarians who are familiar with ACL tears will perform a test called a cranial drawer test. This is a test where the vet holds the femur (the thigh bone) in place and moves the tibia (the larger bone in the lower leg) back and forth. If the ACL is torn, the tibia will move forward. If the ACL is not torn, there will be little to no movement.
Most veterinarians will also want to do xrays, to rule out other possible issues, such as a fracture, hip problems or arthritis.
Partial tears can be successfully treated with management, combining rest and some sort of physical therapy. We’ve had great success helping dogs with partial tears regain complete function through hydrotherapy in our indoor warm water pool.
Full tears generally require surgery. Another new option for partial and complete tears is a leg brace. I don’t know a lot about them, but I’ve heard this is an option that may work, and is less costly than surgery. To learn more about braces, visit Posh Dog Knee Brace.
There are three types of surgery that are generally recommended. Here is a very basic explanation of each.
We are lucky in Central Florida in that we have several great options available for dogs that need ACL surgery. AVS in Maitland is NOT the only option and is generally not the best option, primarily due to cost. If your dog is facing ACL surgery and you would like to understand more of your options, or if you would simply like to learn more, please contact us. We are happy to help.