Dog ACL Injuries (cont.)

Treatment for dog ACL injuries

If left untreated, the lameness caused by a partially torn or ruptured ACL will improve or go away completely in many dogs, especially small ones, within three to six weeks. Regardless, the lack of a healthy ACL will cause the bones to rub against one another, leading to the development of bone spurs, pain, arthritis, and a decreased range of motion. These problems are more likely to occur in medium-sized to large dogs.

Conservative, non-surgical treatment for ACL injuries is typically only used for dogs weighing less than 30 pounds. This includes rest and anti-inflammatory medications for six weeks to two months, followed by a gentle program of exercise and, if obesity is present, weight loss. Without surgery, the knee joint will be subject to degenerative changes.

ACL surgery for dogs includes a number of different techniques that aim to provide stability to the joint. Depending on the procedure used, it may take two to three weeks before your dog is able to bear weight on the injured leg, and, in all cases, exercise is usually restricted for at least eight weeks to allow for adequate healing. It can be very difficult to keep your dog quiet during the rehabilitation period, so you may find it necessary to keep your dog in a crate when you are not available to supervise his activity.

Your veterinarian will be able to advise you about icing your dog's knee and performing gentle range of motion exercises to help with your dog's rehabilitation. Although this healing period can be a difficult time for you and your dog, strict adherence to your veterinarian's recommendations will provide the best outcome and will be the quickest way to get your best friend back on all fours.

SOURCES: Harasen, Greg. "Canine cranial cruciate ligament rupture in profile," Can Vet J, October 2003; 44(10): pp 845-846.

American College of Veterinary Medicine Web site: "Cranial cruciate ligament rupture."

Veterinary Information Network Web site, "Ruptured Anterior (Cranial) Cruciate Ligament."

ASPCA Web site: "How will neutering change my dog?"

American Animal Hospital Association Web site, "Who should do my dog's surgery and what should I expect afterward?"

Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S on November 20, 2009.

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