Pet News

If you have a big dog, you might be aware of or experienced an ACL injury in your dog’s leg or legs.  A tear in the ACL (or anterior cruciate ligament) is very common among basketball players as well as big dogs.  An ACL injury usually occurs when a dog's knee experiences too much twisting and ultimately tears, typically when a dog slips or suddenly turns when running. In addition, the ACL can deteriorate progressively over time due to obesity.

An ACL tear is common in many breeds

Dogs that are prone to an ACL injury are St. Bernards, Rottweilers, and are very common Golden and Labrador Retrievers.  These breeds tend to have weaker back limbs and are therefore more prone to an ACL injury.  These injuries can also occur when dogs are overweight and therefore put too much pressure on their limbs.


A dog that has a ruptured ACL will usually stumble and limp suddenly or hold the leg of the affected knee off the ground at an odd angle.  Further, the knee might appear swollen and your poor dog might be able to put some weight on his or her leg, but will then hold it up again. Exercise typically aggravates the pain, while rest tends to relieve it.  As soon as you see this happen, make sure to take your dog to the vet for further tests.

Veterinary Exam

If the above happens, make sure to take your dog to the vet to diagnose whether your dog tore his ACL.  Your vet will watch the way your dog walks, paying specific attention to the legs and knees. The vet will usually hold onto the dog’s femur and check the back legs.  An X-ray is generally needed to determine if there is a tear.

An ACL injury usually requires surgery

Unfortunately, surgery is typically the best way to treat a ruptured ACL. However, if the ACL is only partially torn, treatment can sometimes heal the ACL injury. Swimming, low-impact exercises and different ways to manage the pain are sometimes the most effective types of non-surgical treatment.   There are also many healthy vitamins and supplements on the market that specifically aid in strengthening your dogs bones.

Unfortunately, when a ruptured ACL is left to heal on its own without surgery, arthritis can occur.   Therefore, it is important to monitor your dog’s health to make sure that the anterior cruciate ligament heals correctly.

How to prevent an ACL injury in dogs

The best way to prevent an ACL injury in your dog is to keep your dog active and lean.  Exercising with your dog will help strengthen the knees and ligaments of your dogs.  Further, make sure that your dog is at a good weight, especially those prone to ACL injuries, to prevent further pressure on their ligaments.

I hope that your dog never experiences an ACL injury as it is painful for your dog and for you to watch.  However, if it does occur, don’t despair, because they are very common, just not a lot of fun.