Does My Dog Have An ACL Injury?

We have probably all seen it watching human sporting events; an athlete goes down and later we hear they have a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). Guess what? Dog’s can suffer from this as well.

With athletes the injury is obvious, with dogs they don’t show an ACL injury so transparently. So to follow is some information that can help the pet owner to know what to look for in identifying an ACL injury in their dog:


ACL injuries are some of the most common seen orthopedic problems with dogs. They can have many causalities, including breed, age, and obesity.


There can be a range of severity with ACL injuries in dogs and thus a correlated range of symptoms:

  • Lameness
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured leg
  • Swelling near the knee of the injured leg

Breeds at Risk

Though ACL injuries can befall all dog breeds, the following dog breeds tend to be more prone:

  • German shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • Poodle
  • Bichon frise

Other Factors in ACL

There are other factors at play that can increase the likelihood of an ACL injury:

  • Obesity (extra weight creates extra burden on the ligaments)
  • Infrequent/but strenuous exercise (read: Exercise for the Aging Dog)
  • Treatment for dog ACL injuries

"Catch 22" with ACL Treatment

Interestingly, the lameness caused by a partially torn or ruptured ACL in a dog will improve or go away completely in many dogs, especially small ones, within three to six weeks. The catch though is, that the lack of a healthy ACL will cause the bones to rub against one another, leading to a decreased range of motion, and likely arthritics as well. These problems are more likely to occur in medium-sized to large dogs, but can happen with small dogs as well. If you suspect your dog may have an AACL injury, it is best to see your veterinarian, as they will have a treatment plan to help strengthen your dog. For severe injuries/larger dogs this likely will mean surgery. For smaller dogs, non-surgical methods may be used.

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