Your furry companion used to love going outdoors and running around in the backyard, but you’ve recently been finding them silently moaning in a corner, with no energy or interest in any kind of activity? Or have you noticed your dog started walking differently and limping too often?
All of this made you worry about an illness or injury, and you immediately took your dog to the veterinarian. Diagnosis? A torn ACL. They have explained all the treatment options to you but you are still confused. If you’ve found yourself in such a situation, we’ve got you. We hope our guide to ACL injury and treatment will help clear some of your doubts.
Before scrolling down this list, you might like: Best Dog Knee Braces for Torn ACL
What Does ACL Injury Mean for a Dog?
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a crucial part of the knee similar to humans. Simply put, the thigh bone and shinbone are connected in the knee region where these ligaments join them. When one of these ligaments is torn it is called an ACL injury. An ACL injury can seriously degrade the quality of life that a dog lives.
How Does An ACL Injury Occur in Dogs?
A tear in the knee ligament in dogs can occur from any sudden twists, jumps, or movements. Accidents while playing and sudden pressure on the knee or leg can also result in the ACL being torn. It may not be obvious at first, but as soon as you notice your dog limping or having any trouble walking, take them to the vet. The vet will perform a thorough physical examination and confirm a torn ACL after ruling out all other reasons. Based on the pressure, the tear may be minor or severe.
What Options Does Your Dog Have After ACL Injury Is Diagnosed?
For most torn ACL injuries in dogs, intervention is a must. A tear will not heal on its own and will have to be treated promptly or it will continue to get worse. If a major tear is diagnosed, then the doctor can recommend a few options. These involve surgical and non-surgical treatments.
If it’s a minor tear, you can probably let your dog rest for a couple of weeks until he or she feels better. With proper nutrition and care, you can begin to introduce some exercises of gradually increasing intensity. No other extensive treatment will be required except for a few scheduled check-ups.
Medication, painkillers, and rest are the best way to go if the tear is not that severe. These will help reduce or manage the pain while allowing the dog to heal. Often leg braces are also used to help support the leg. A brace can also be part of post-surgery rehabilitation.
Physical therapy is also popular these days. With its successful effect on helping improve injuries and overall health, the therapy is used by itself or as a holistic treatment along with the surgery. You can expect acupuncture, massage, diet, and other treatments to be combined under this.
In extreme cases when none of the treatments work, euthanasia is also taken into consideration.
Doctors most commonly recommend surgery when it is a major tear. The surgical procedure will involve stabilizing the knee joint or replacing the torn ligament.
Surgery is recommended when the tear is too big to heal on its own. If untreated, it may become even bigger and create more problems for your dog.
However, surgery is not always the best option. Below are a few pros and cons to help you decide.
Benefits of ACL Surgery in Dogs
- Reduced risk of arthritis
- Prevents degeneration of other cartilages
- Improved quality of life
- Prevents spinal cord distress from imbalanced pressure on legs
- Drawbacks of Surgery:
- Stiffening joints
- Tissue damage
- Not 100% successful
An ACL injury is painful to begin with, and if you delay treating it, the pain can worsen considerably. Another effect of not treating an ACL tear is inactivity. Your dog slowly starts to become less active in every area of their life. It can exacerbate to the extent where even basic movements become impossible. This will lead to them putting on a lot of weight, thus harming their overall health.
Although ACL injuries get worse if not treated, even surgeries cannot ensure that the torn ACL will be fully repaired. Besides, the non-surgical route of injections and medicines may provide only temporary relief. With so many complications and the risk of increasing discomfort to your dog, euthanasia may be your only option.
When To Euthanize A Dog With A Torn ACL?
Below are a few conditions where euthanasia may be the only option left.
If the dog is too old to be operated on or to recover from surgery without any side effects, then euthanasia should be looked into. Old age makes dogs more prone to infections and diseases as they have diminished immunity, and a torn ligament will only attract problems.
Sometimes, even surgery can’t help. And if the pain doesn’t seem to be going away, then the tear may be worse than you had imagined. If you don’t see any improvement in your dog’s condition after the surgery or the side effects are making your dog’s life difficult, then it is only humane to consider euthanasia.
Size and breed:
The larger the dog, the greater the pain. Larger dogs don’t heal as well, and because of their size, there is greater pressure exerted on their knee. This stops your dog from recovering. If your breed is susceptible to other bone-related disorders, then it may become too painful for them to manage even basic activities.
Any dog parent would want to do everything in their power to help their pet feel better. But ACL surgeries cost a lot, and not all dog owners may be able to afford them. In such cases, if finances become a major problem, there may not be another option left.
Success Rate of Surgery:
It all boils down to what the vet recommends. What do they say is the success rate of the surgery? The success rate can depend on various factors like the health, breed, and age of the dog. Although even with a high success rate, surgery may not help the knee at all.
Conclusion When To Euthanize A Dog With A Torn ACL?
Talk to your vet about all the options before you make your decision. Make sure you are not rushing into it. You must find the right doctor who will make the treatment plan easier for your dog. Sometimes a combination of treatments will work better than one.
Most of all, be patient with your dog throughout the procedure. And make sure you’ve considered every option before you resort to euthanasia. Euthanizing your dog should only be the last and unavoidable resort.
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Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her veterinary degree from Oregon State University in 2010. She has been practicing in a mixed animal clinic in rural Idaho ever since at Clearwater Valley Veterinarian Clinic. When she’s not busy writing, treating animals, or working on her cattle ranch, she may be found somewhere in the Idaho wilderness with her husband and kids. Dr. Chyrle Bonk is a writer for We Love Doodles and verifies that the information we post is accurate the up to date! She is also an advisor and editor.
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