View Full Version : dog with torn ACL?

Dec. 30, 2008, 08:31 PM
just got back from the vet with my aussie/acd mix. Most likely she has a partial tear to her ACL- she is on two weeks rest. This is going to be impossible, no running, no climbing- she's a high energy herding dog for goodness sake.

Anyone have any experiences with this wih their dogs? Anyone/s dog heal without surgery?

Dec. 30, 2008, 09:01 PM
I had a Siberian Husky who tore one ACL and then almost 2 years later the other ACL. We opted not to do surgery either time and she regained full use of both legs. We kept her mildly sedated (as another super high energy dog/breed!) for the first few weeks and on Rimadyl for a while. As our vet explained, her knees were eventually fused together through the arthritis that sets in and that was when she was able to move around about as good as ever.

So without surgery she was gimpy for a few months (though not in pain after the first few weeks) and then "sound." And then when the other one went it was a repeat of the first. About 6 months after the second ACL tore she was totally "sound" and stable on her hind legs again.

Unfortunately I don't recall the details all that well as it was 7 and 9 years ago, and that dog also had reoccuring spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsing lungs). Those are the episodes I remember MUCH more clearly.

Good luck with your dog!

Dec. 30, 2008, 09:05 PM
I had a chow mix that tore his ACL and had surgery, but wouldn't use that leg after because he was kinda a wimp. Two weeks later the other went out and vet didn't recommend surgery again. He did Cortisone shots, and let it heal. He later had arthritis in it, but managed.

Dec. 30, 2008, 09:16 PM
my lab tore hers and had the surgery. It was impossible to keep her confined to rest afterwards, so the "fix" didn't last and she tore it again. It healed over time on its own and she has almost full use of that leg. I was told recently by a vet friend of mine that almost all ACL tears on dogs will heal just fine without surgery.

Dec. 30, 2008, 09:25 PM
My mom's beagle tore his just before she got him (from the pound), and largely healed sound. If he gets too tired, or strains it, he'll limp for a day or two, but nothing serious.

My grandfather's older Yorkie tore his over the summer, and the *sshat vet insisted it needed surgery "to prevent arthritis" even though the dog was 12 and clearly not in the greatest shape, and sadly although he survived the surgery he pretty much gave up and had to be put down when his kidneys started to fail.

My small animal vet, who tends to be fairly conservative, says that the surgery is rarely effective enough to be worthwhile. At this point I would probably only consider it with a young, healthy working dog, not with a pet.

Dec. 30, 2008, 10:09 PM
Thanks everyone. I am really hoping it will heal without surgery. She is only five, and competes in agility- we had a 3 day trial this weekend :(. I will do what ever it takes to have her live a long healthy life, even if it means blowing my whole Bonus from work on two surgerys- sigh- guess the old car will have to stretch out another year.

I appreciate any input- I am fortunate to have had very healthy pets- a cat that had to have her teeth removed - and a horse that likes to whack her head - but no major surgeriesor health isues thus far. This would be my first big deal and different opinions are very helpful.

Dec. 30, 2008, 10:57 PM
My ACD tore his a couple months ago. We didn't do the surgery. I tried my best to keep him quiet and get him to rest, but he's a mad man and definitely had moments of craziness tearing around the house. Now he's sound most of the time, except after excersize he is rather lame for a while, and first thing in the morning he's a bit stiff. However, he does also have hip problems, so that could be contributing to the lameness.

Good luck with your dog!

Dec. 31, 2008, 07:33 AM
Unlike the others, I DID opt for the surgery for my JRT. She was lame on it for several months, despite encouraging her to rest and keeping her tied at the barn. Once she was done with her post-surgery rehab (about 3 months until back to total fitness), she was good as new. I know several other dog owners who've had the surgery done with happy results. As with everything, they're individuals and will heal in different ways. Good luck.

Brydelle Farm
Dec. 31, 2008, 10:49 AM
just got back from the vet with my aussie/acd mix. Most likely she has a partial tear to her ACL- she is on two weeks rest. This is going to be impossible, no running, no climbing- she's a high energy herding dog for goodness sake.

Anyone have any experiences with this wih their dogs? Anyone/s dog heal without surgery?

I am sorry to hear about your pup's injury. Have you had her examined by a boarded surgeon? Sometimes, with rest +/- NSAIDs, these dogs can "recover" w/o surgical intervention but there is a permanent weakness there and often times put more strain on the other side, as many of those who posted mentioned, eventually, the other side will go as well.

Surgical repair of CL tears have come a long way, the most effective surgeries are either a TPLO or TTA (these are much different than the old school extracapsular technique), one may be better than the other depending your dog's injury, conformation, etc. There are complications that can occur with surgery but that is why having a reputable boarded surgeon perform it is BEST. You can check out http://www.acvs.org/AnimalOwners/FindaSurgeoninYourArea/ to find a surgeon in your area.

For a younger dog, that is fit and in proper body condition, I would opt for a surgical consult and go from there..

Another note, dogs experience pain just like we do, they just don't SHOW it like we do. Exhibiting pain is a weakness in the wild and makes you easy prey. There have been many studies in this (THANK GOD) and dogs will still wag tails, run, play, when in presence of owner, etc, but once "no one" was looking [but being video'd] the dogs would wimper, circle, hunch backs, limp, etc.... If they are limping, they are in pain! If they lay with a stretched out leg vs tucked up, they are in pain! If they are reluctant to jump up or go up/downs stairs more slowly, or one step at a time vs two-three steps at a time, etc, they are in pain. It is more subtle but it is there. Just something to keep in mind.

Good luck!!

Dec. 31, 2008, 11:03 AM
the surgery tends to be more successful in small dogs, although there has been improved surgical results in large dogs of late..Rest is the key in either situation, surgery or not..If your dog is really hyper talk to your vet about sedation. A crate combined with sedation can be your best friend in these siuations.

Dec. 31, 2008, 11:09 AM
My Lab mutt tore her ACL and I had surgery performed. I can't remember what the name of the procedure was, but the vet made a circular cut in her bone right below the joint rotating the bone and plates put in place. My understanding is this rotation of the bone meant no replacement ligaments were needed. She healed well and I have had no problems with that leg. $1800.

Well, she loves to chase balls and used to run the fence line when the boy next door played in the yard. So she blew out her other ACL. Decided to try a different vet and had a different type of procedure performed (synthetic ligament?) ($900). Healed beautifully.

It was hard to keep her quiet during both rehabs as she's definitely doggy ADHD. One thing that has kept the knees healthy is the boy finally grew up and moved away...no more running up and down the fence.

Sorry for the (more than) layman's terms on her surgeries. I can research more if you need...got the records on file at home. :)

Dec. 31, 2008, 11:10 AM
I also had the surgery done on a 6 year lab. She also was involved in agility and was an pet therapy dog. We had the right knee done by our vet and six months later we had the left knee done by a board certified orthopedic vet who specialized in ACL repairs. I would strongly suggest the orthopedic specialist. To my surprise the cost was the same as our vet charged.She did have to retire as the vet said from agility and pet therapy but did great and healed well. She lived to be 13.5 years old and was put down with cancer on the right hip .Keeping her quiet was very difficult and had to put her back in her crate to keep her quiet.We were able to start walking at very short distances at first and I think after a month we were back to a mile.
I strongly suggest the surgery and follow the vets instructions to a t don't over exercise even if it looks like the dog can.

Dec. 31, 2008, 11:13 AM
We have two dogs, one with a partial tear, and the other the vet referred to as a "tear", so we don't know how bad it was.

One was fixed by a travelling surgeon who specializes in ACL tears, the other was rested and given Cartrophen injections, both as per vet reccomendation.

The dog who had the surgery was un-diagnosed for a few months, so by the time she had the surgery arthritis had already set in. That was 9 years ago, dog is now 11. We are very glad we did the surgery. She is a high energy largish dog (75 lbs) who rarely shows signs of soreness on that leg. It was expensive, but done by a specialist and something we are grateful to have had the opportunity to do.

The other dog is a bit larger (85 lbs pointer-type) and he does occasionally favour his hind leg that had the partial tear. He is now 10, adopted when he was 5 and came to us with hind leg lameness. He gets Metacam when sore.

So both cases have worked out not badly for us, but we do think if we hadn't done surgery on the first one she wouldn't be comfortable today.

I also think once they have a partial tear it is really difficult to keep them quiet enough for it to heal without tearing further.

Good luck with whatever you do!

FWIW I recall reading an article in a veterinary magazine that stated it seemed to make no difference on the outcome with small dogs whether you did surgery or not, but that it was better for the large dogs. That was 9 years ago though...don't know what current thinking is.

Dec. 31, 2008, 02:28 PM
My cat tore both ACLs. She tore one, we did surgery, and then within the year, she tore the other. She basically has fishing line for ACLs. She was about 3 when this happened, and she is still hobbling around. The arthritis set in in the last few years, but she's almost 18, so it's to be expected. She was catching mice through last summer, but now it's too cold to venture away from the heater.
When I worked for the vet (through whom I had free vet care luckily!), he told me it was usually a structural defect that predisposed dogs (and very rarely cats) to the injury. Because of that, a dog that tore one ACL would commonly tear the other. The exception to that statement would be when the injury occured due to some trauma such as getting a foot caught as they jumped out of a vehicle and overextending the joint and tearing the ligament. Most cases at our clinic were treated surgically with good outcome.
Since your dog is a partial tear, I would try the rest (be strict!!). You can always opt for the surgery in a few weeks if there is no improvement.

Dec. 31, 2008, 03:00 PM
Ahh, right now babysitting my JRT after her second ACL repair surgery (first one "knee" then the other one one year later sigh). I am a MD so the decision was straightforward for me - research shows that tears "maybe" heal without surgery but the chances are much better with surgery for full recovery. If I had a less active breed, I might have waited, but she was fully three legged the second time around, acute tear, so I went forward - lucky to have NC State and great Orthopedic small animal vets in the area.

good luck with your pup!! Whichever choice, hope she is back doing her agility after treatment - whether surgery or simple "stall" rest!

Dec. 31, 2008, 03:30 PM
good luck with your pup!! Whichever choice, hope she is back doing her agility after treatment - whether surgery or simple "stall" rest!

HAHA! I was telling a horse friend about this last night, and I said "She's on stall rest, I mean crate rest, and she has to be hand walked, I mean walked on a leash..." ;)

Thanks again for the input everyone- fortunately I think I have a great deal of good vets in the area- I am only 45 minutes from Tufts - and I think there are many other really reputable DVMs in the NE area, so she will get the best of the best if it comes to that. Ofcourse today she is putting weight on the leg, walking fine - but she definitely tries to hide the pain from me. :) She keeps going over to her ball and looking at me...we are in the middle of a blizzard.

Dec. 31, 2008, 03:49 PM
My border collie mix tore hers 2 or 3 years ago now. As we estimate her age to be pushing 15 at this point, we elected not to do the surgery back then for fear with her age, she wouldn't recover. She does have a limp and that leg shakes and is obviously weaker. We started her on rimadyl back then to keep her comfortable, but her liver markers went up, so we switched to deramax for pain, half a pill a day. But what made the biggest difference for her was adequan. We did a loading dose, I can't remember what it was now, then went down to every other week, now she gets it monthly. She went from just laying around to running again, saw her chase a fox the other day and I was amazed! I have my horse on it, but with yearly hock injections, it was hard to say if the adequan helped her or not. After what I saw with the dog, I am now a firm believer in the stuff. It's amazing. The one thing the vet was most concerned with was my dog's weight, and he had me try the adequan in hopes of getting her comfortable enough to exercise some of that weight off of her, to take that load off the bad leg. It has definitely made a difference. She will never be slim at this point, but we have taken some weight off. But more importantly, she is more comfortable and seems to be enjoying normal doggie activities again. So I would just caution you about watching your dog's weight while healing - cut back on the food while not exercising so that he doesn't have that added burden stressing the leg.

Dec. 31, 2008, 04:33 PM
our heinz 57 had the surgery in october. she is 9 and has always been a bit on the quiet side. our vet said the tear was very bad and the damage was extensive. she is on the leash for 8 months and will be on rimadyl the rest of her life. she doe have a bit of a hitch in her gait. i am thankful that this did not happen to our 2y.o. aussie x as he would be a basket case. i do not see how the high energy dogs(and their owners) survive the rehab.
best of luck with your dog.

Dec. 31, 2008, 10:57 PM

My sister told me to post.

My 8 yo female aussie- pet, farm dog, companion dog, agility dog and alpha female - tore her acl while supporting me on my farm chores. We were rolling round bales from a hay wagon to the pickup to drive to the pasture. She jumped to the pickup tailgate from the side, hooking her leg under the tailgate cable - instantly tearing her acl.

My sister took her to the small animal vet she works for and he said - your girl will never be happy - get it fixed! He said take her to a acl specialist for the TPLO (he did the surgery on his own lab, but knew how active mine was and felt the specialists do so many she should go there.

We did her surgery and followed the protical - dog crate or leash for 3 months. She came back to complete in agility and perform, rough house, and play at the same level we had her before.

Aproximately 2 years later she tore the other one racing "the pack" (with my sister's dogs and my friends we sometimes have 8 aussies around the farm on a weekend) to the pond to swim. I had that one fixed and you would never know she had ever injured either.

I would do it again in a heartbeat for an active dog. But I would make sure to keep them at a competative weight. That is where most people go wrong.

Dec. 31, 2008, 11:51 PM
My dog tore her ACL, she was about 10 at the time. I decided to do the surgery as she is a very active dog and went with the traditional wire surgery vs the TPLO. I figured the wire has worked pretty well for a number of years and if I had done the TPLO and something had gone wrong, well that was the end of the road. If the wire went wrong at least I had the option to upgrade to the TPLO at that point. That being said she is only about 45-50 pounds and never overweight, had she been a large breed dogs I would most likely have gone the TPLO route.

She's 12 now and recovered very well, runs all over the farm, jumps up/down/over things. No limping or pain, she does not like to sit though and prefers to lay down instead, although she does have some arthritis in her hips. I thought the rest period would be hard, but it wasn't too bad, even manged to move 2000 miles with her in the UHaul :D. Instead of crating her all the time I'd just tie her next to me if I was in one place long enough or left her in the small bathroom so it didn't feel like she was in a "box" all the time.

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:32 AM
Our Aussie tore her left cruciate ligaments several years ago and had surgery to put artificial ligaments in. This year she tore her right cruciate ligaments, and since she is ten they didn't really want to do surgery (apparently the biggest reason to do surgery is to prevent later arthritis). She was on restricted 'turnout' for a month or so (no different than when they did the surgery), had to be carried up/down stairs, but now (six months later) is doing just great! Running around almost good as new.


Jan. 1, 2009, 10:45 AM
thanks everyone- your input is really appreciated! I am amazed at how many dogs have this injury!

Does anyone have any experience with prolotherapy? It was mentioned to me as an alternate to surgery. I am really hoping something else was going on because after a few days of rest she seems a lot better, even has her legs tucked up under her now as she is sleeping.

At any rate this experience and input has made me realize that it is so important that she stay thin and fit.

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:35 PM
I"m sorry about your dog. Our cat tore his ACL when he did a swan dive off my parents' deck. The surgery was simple and successful, and he lived another 8 years with no problems. I also have a friend whose Bernese Mountain Dog tore his ACL romping in the snow. The surgery was successful for him, too.
I hope your dog will make a full recovery.

Mtn trails
Jan. 2, 2009, 02:48 PM
My lab had a full TPLO surgery after completly tearing her right ACL in October. She recently had her 8 week post surgical x-rays and everything is healing well. Yes, she had to be restricted in activity for 8 weeks but we found and indoor dog pen (not a cage or crate) worked wonders. She could still be in the middle of regular household activity but not a lot of movement. I couldn't ask for a better patient but as she started feeling better and using her leg more, the harder it was to keep her quiet on our leash walks. But she's looking good, feels good, and is almost back to her normal self.

Jan. 2, 2009, 03:28 PM
Sorry to hear about your dogs injury, listen to the vet and keep the dog very confined.

I had this problem with my LabX started out with the diagnosis that you got and I didn't listen strictly to the vet and allowed him to go out for pee breaks on his own. This resulted in rupturing the ACL in one leg. I decided on TPLO surgery, took about a week to get consult and surgery date and in the process he ruptured the other ACL by limping.

I was a mess, considered euthanasia and ended up deciding that I would repair one and then he could at least limp on bad days... Well I made the right choice! The surgery leg is great - took about 10 days for dog to feel better and the confinement period was the toughest. The other leg has some scar tissue and or arthritis (looks thicker) in and around that joint, but I must say that the dog is now 11 and looks great!

I hope your dog recovers fully without need for surgery!

Jan. 2, 2009, 03:32 PM
At any rate this experience and input has made me realize that it is so important that she stay thin and fit.

That's it! Please don't let you animals get overweight! Fat does not = happy or healthy! (I can attest to that;)) It has been a very expensive and emotional lesson for me to learn.

Jan. 2, 2009, 10:42 PM
Our chow mix tore his ACL a few years ago and my parents opted for surgery with an orthopedic specialist. It took him some time (and some major restraint-try keeping a chow quiet on Halloween :eek:) to feel comfortable on it again. Of course, a year or two after that, he tore the other. Same process. Then this past year he tore the menisicus (I think), connective tissue in the leg, which was related to the ACL surgery. So that was another surgery. But hey, he's a part of the family and if my sister tore her ACL I'm sure we'd pay for that surgery too. :lol:

Important thing to note-after they blow one knee, the other tends to go, so talk to your vet about what may have caused it. For our dog, it was a combination of factors. His conformation isn't the greatest, he went out on a line in the yard (encourages abrupt stops=bad), we have hardwood floors, and he jumped up and down on beds a lot. The orthopedic vet also spent all this time talking to my mom about our dog's natural way of going...which I boiled down to "runs on his forehand, doesn't push from behind" :winkgrin:

Jan. 2, 2009, 11:14 PM
Our 17 year old JRT decided two nights ago to jump from our back steps to the patio below, without taking the few steps in between point A and point B. Sure enough, took the poor old boy to the vet today, and he's most likely torn his ACL.

His age precludes him from having the surgery, the vet prescribe NSAID therapy. Fortunately he spends a majority of his day sleeping, so 'stall rest' isn't too hard.

I hope your dog recovers well.

Jan. 5, 2009, 07:17 PM
this is coincidental, my Australian cattle dog has just been diagnosed with a torn ACL and we are trying to decide if we want to do the surgery too.

we think he has been partially tearing it over the past year with all his frisby and ball playing. he seems to have a limp on and off but about a month ago after a really long trail ride it concentrated to the one leg. the limp went away until the holidays when he played extra hard with friends dogs so off to the vet who is a reputable surgeon who diagnosed him.

anyway he is 2yo, 55lb and in great shape.
we have been restricting him for the past 4 or 5 days now and he is about to loose his poor little mind. whining, barking, licking himself, chewing on his paws, chasing his tail, jumping up and down on furniture, etc.

his limp is almost gone now so we are really interested in trying the conservative management method of keeping him quiet for 2 months vs the surgery that requires 6+ weeks of crate confinement.
I just dont think he can handle that.

I am interested to hear more stories of people with similar energy dogs.

Jan. 5, 2009, 08:55 PM
Kristashine- I am on day six with my dog (she's half ACD) and she is losing her mind too! Let's just she were a human she would be huddled in the corner with camo and a shot gun looking both ways and mumbling to herself...sigh, they so need their adrenaline rush!

My dog is doing much better! She has no limp, is putting all pressure on the leg etc. Tommorow is the last day of the antiinflamitories so we will see after that.

Did your vet get you on a joint supplement? I had my dog on one, but I got the new dasaquin- its like the cosequin ASU - but for dogs.

I also think frisbee playing and "herding" the waves on the beach are what did her in too...but I am really hoping that with continued rest she will heal.

Jan. 6, 2009, 02:20 PM
it is so great to talk to someone else in this situation with a similar dog (well not great that we are both in this situation but yeah you get my meaning).

I can so picture Ash with his shot gun mumbling in the corner too. haha
he is passably sound now with a little stiffness when he gets up from a nap.
and he all of a sudden has interest in food (he never has before) so we are rationing it out in kongs and treat dispenser toys vs in his food bowl, which seems to be helping a lot.

we had gotten him some suppliments about a month ago with guecomin (which ever gu one it is for joints) in it that he has been taking but we need to get him something better. I am still waiting for the vet to call me back which is not really reassuring me since i called days ago with questions. He is suppose to be a very repitable ortho vet though. but i wanted to ask about suppliments.

if you want to converse more you are welcome to email me at kristashine@hotmail.com i would like to hear more about your dog and his/her injury.

Jan. 6, 2009, 03:17 PM
Well, I am in the minority here - my 9 yr old Dobergirl tore her left ACl at some point in her life, probably before I adopted her. It developed arthritis and healed the point that it really didn't hurt her too much, unless she did a lot of extreme rollbacks and turns. Unfortunately, she tore her right ACL early this fall and I decided to do the TPLO surgery since this was her second and having two arthritic legs seemed like a bad idea.

Well, she didn't fare so well - she went into kidney failure about a week after the surgery. No one knows why, the best guess is that she was in the beginning stages of kidney disease (her bloodwork was perfect). Anyway, during her hospitalization for that, one of the screws in her leg from the surgery snapped and that leg was pretty much useless, not to mention horrific looking.

I had to have her put down :cry:

Given the chance to do it again, at her age, I would have chosen rest over surgery. For a younger dog, I probably would do the surgery.

If you do go the surgery route, go to the BEST vet school/clinic you can afford. Although the surgeon I used was certified in this surgery, I still wish I had gone to the vet school. Maybe things would have turned out different.

Jan. 7, 2009, 03:51 PM
My 85 pound American Bulldog tore his doggie ACL when he was only about a year old. So I feel your pain in keeping an energetic (and big in his case) dog still!! But he was on pain medication so that helped keep him calm. He fully recovered with no surgery! I hope your doggie recovers well :D

Jan. 7, 2009, 04:12 PM
Surgical repair of CL tears have come a long way, the most effective surgeries are either a TPLO or TTA (these are much different than the old school extracapsular technique), one may be better than the other depending your dog's injury, conformation, etc. There are complications that can occur with surgery but that is why having a reputable boarded surgeon perform it is BEST. You can check out http://www.acvs.org/AnimalOwners/FindaSurgeoninYourArea/ to find a surgeon in your area.

My 12 year old brittany had the TTA surgery done several years ago, five years after a prevsoius traumatic injury required a medial collateral repair on the same leg. Yes it is expensive and the crate rest is difficult (although no more difficult, I'm sure, than the old school technique). But aside from a loss of flexibility (certainly the result of two surgeries) he is as good as new - bombs through the fields like a puppy.

If you can afford it, I'd go with the TPLO or TTA by a specialist (our surgeon did over 350 "knees" a year, so we knew he was more than capable.)....[of course any surgery has risks]....but we felt that because he was a very active breed it was the best decision to give him the best repair we could afford, and we haven't been disappointed at all.