The term ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament, and it is one (of many) things humans and dogs share. And just like humans, ACL tears are some of the most common types of orthopedic injuries that happen to dogs. Ligaments act like rubber bands that connect the bones in our bodies and help to stabilize our legs when we walk, run, change direction or even stand up or sit down. With the right amount of pressure, ligaments can tear. One of the most serious and common tears occurs in the knees, which is where the ACL is located. ACL tears in dogs are extremely painful, and if they are not treated correctly, can permanently affect your dog’s ability to run or even walk.
Facts About ACL Tears In Dogs
The medical name for an ACL tear in dogs is cranial cruciate ligament rupture.
- Statistics show that as much as 85% of all orthopedic injuries in dogs are related to ACL injuries.
- Overweight and unfit dogs are more likely to suffer from these tears.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears are common causes of arthritis in dogs.
- ACL tears can be partial or complete tears. Treatment is dependent on which type of tear occurred.
- ACLs are only located in the hind legs of dogs.
Symptoms Of Torn ACL
- Limping or tenderness in hind legs.
- Awkward posture when standing or lying down.
- Difficulty getting up from resting position, especially in mornings.
- Swelling around the knee-joint.
For more good information, see the video below from Dr. MIchael Bauer as he discusses how to spot and treat ACL tears in dogs:
How To Treat Partial Tear Of ACL
A veterinarian will first perform a cranial drawer test, which is where the bones in the leg are felt and shifted to test the severity of the tear. Then, the vet will usually perform a tibial compression test to determine if the tear is minor or major.
A minor or partial ACL tear can be treated a number of ways and is largely dependent on the type and size of your dog. For most dogs that are relatively healthy, surgery is not needed. Rest, physical therapy and healthy bone and joint supplements can be added to your dog’s routine, and they should be feeling better in a matter of weeks.
In some rare cases, like if your dog has a history of joint injuries or if he’s older, surgery might be needed.
How To Treat A Complete Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear
Complete ACL tears almost always require surgery. In order for the knee to be able to stabilize and support the weight and daily activities your dog needs, he would have to go under the knife.
There are multiple surgeries that can take place, again, depending on the size and breed of your dog. Surgeries range from the slightly evasive to extremely taxing on you and your pet. It can be as simple as a small wire being inserted into the femur to hold the knee in place, and as difficult as requiring screws, plates and many hours on an operating table.
Dog ACL Surgery Costs
All surgeries require different procedures and all have different costs. It is recommended that you have pet insurance to offset the price of major ACL surgery. For minor surgeries, you can expect to pay as much as $1,000.
More evasive surgeries can cost up to $5,000, but most range from $2,500-$4,500 according to TPLO Guide, which is a great resource for finding additional information about these tears in dogs and how to best treat each specific case.
Pet Insurance Claim Reimbursement
Below is how one pet insurance company handled reimbursement for TPLO surgery due to a ruptured cruciate ligament in the dog’s right, rear leg.
- Dog: Jed, 6-year-old Labrador Retriefer
- Diagnosis: Torn cruciate ligament
- Total Vet Cost: $4,751.15
- Plan Details: $200 deductible (per condition, annually); 90% reimbursement
- Total Reimbursed By Petplan: $3,296.74
The Final Word
Ultimately, there is no sure-fire way to prevent your dog from tearing his ACL. Dogs will be dogs and you can’t ask him not to have his natural instincts to chase squirrels or change direction when you’re playing together. The things you can do are make sure that both of you are protected by looking into pet insurance and by monitoring his behavior if you feel something is off.
Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if he is favoring his back leg, and do your due diligence by checking for swelling or tenderness. If you think you might need surgery, consult your vet and discuss your options so that you give your dog the best possible chance for recovery.
What was your dog’s course of treatment for his ACL tear?