What Should You Do If Your Dog Tears an ACL?

Poor Sophy

If you are unlucky (like me), and your dog tears its anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) be forewarned; you are in for a bumpy ride.  I love my dogs.  They are healthy, happy and very active labs.  But 18 months ago, when my Sophy tore her ACL I was just so unsure of what to do for her.  So I did my research.  Read one internet site and they tell you you can “cure it” by rest and confinement.  Read another site and they say you should immediately take your dog  in for surgery to minimize arthritis later in life.  Well I made my decision for Sophy and was convinced it was the proper one.

Fast forward 12 months and my other dog Chester tore his ACL in a “sports injury”.  Having already gone through this once with Sophy, I did the research all over again.  This time I made the mistake of telling someone of my decision and they verbally attacked me.  They said “how can you play God with the life of your dog”.  At first I was horrified and felt ashamed; then I just got angry! Who was she to judge me.  But it was because of that one comment that I started the Raising Healthy Dogs site.

And I have one crucial piece of news for you….we will all make mistakes.  Just like our parents made mistakes raising us, we will make mistakes raising our dogs.  All we can do is make decisions for their welfare based on imperfect and often biased information and the resources we have available to us.  So if you dog tears an ACL, do your research, speak with your vet and a surgeon if necessary and shut out all the negative noise.  Following is an overview of the problem and various treatment options. It was written by a vet and reviewed by a surgeon.  For anyone interested, I chose TPLO for both dogs.  If anyone want so talk about the experience or has questions, let me know.  I am more than happy to share my experiences and tips for recovery.


To understand what happens when a dog ruptures his cruciate ligament, and how it can be treated, we need to learn a little about the anatomy of the knee joint.

Your dog has two cruciate ligaments in his knee. They criss cross the space between the femur and the tibia (hence their name), and prevent these bones moving forwards and backwards against each other. Between the two bones lie two little crescents of cartilage called menisci (singular is meniscus). These act as shock absorbers when your dog walks and runs, and protect the cartilage at the end of the two bones.

Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is by far the most common injury that can occur to a dog’s knee. There are two common scenarios that occur when this ligament ruptures. Firstly, a young active dog hurts his knee while he’s running around playing games or chasing birds. Secondly, an elderly dog with weakened ligaments or a degree of arthritis may sustain the same injury because  the ligament has degenerated with age. In both cases, there is a sudden onset of lameness, and the leg is so painful that they can’t put their foot down.

If your dog has ruptured his cruciate ligament, you have several treatment options to choose from. In most cases, surgery is necessary to prevent excess movement in the joint, which will inevitably lead to arthritis.   Surgery also allows your veterinarian to tidy up any ragged edges to the menisci, which can cause ongoing discomfort.

Let’s have a closer look at the different ways of treating a cruciate rupture in your dog.

Non Surgical Treatment

If your dog is small, you may choose to do nothing. When the acute pain resolves, little dogs may recover enough to be comfortable with being given pain relieving anti-inflammatory medication when required. Natural joint support products such as glucosamine and green lipped muscle extract can also help. It can take over 4 months before they recover to this level. This treatment option is really only appropriate for dogs under 30lbs, as heavier animals put too much stress on their knees. Keep in mind also that long term use of anti-inflammatory drugs can have effects on your dog’s stomach and kidneys.

Prolotherapy can be useful in helping to manage a cruciate rupture if surgery isn’t an option. This procedure involves injection of a solution into the knee which causes scarring around the joint. This scarring helps to stabilize the joint and reduce excess movement. It’s a controversial procedure; it can have good results, but it can also lead to complications such as excessive inflammation. To get the best outcome from this procedure, it should be done by an orthopedic specialist.

If your budget allows it, surgery is still the best option for all cases of cruciate rupture in dogs.

Extracapsular Repair

“Extracapsular” means outside the joint capsule, so this method of repair doesn’t involve any implants or modifications to the inside of the knee joint.

After the  joint has been opened, and any damaged bone, ligament and meniscus have been removed, a strong suture is placed on the outside of the knee to take the place of the torn ligament. The suture is passed behind the fabella, a small bone that sits right at the back of the knee near the bottom of the femur, and then through a hole drilled through the front of the tibia. It is tied sufficiently tightly to stabilize the knee, while still allowing a normal range of movement.

Post-operative care involves 8 weeks of rest, then a gradual increase in exercise. Over time, scar tissue will develop around the knee joint, and this will reduce excess movement. The suture itself often breaks within 12 months after the procedure, but by then the knee should be held stable by its own tissues.

This procedure is quick, and inexpensive when compared to the more invasive methods of repair. It can work well in small dogs, and is particularly useful in puppies, where you don’t want to make changes to the bones themselves while they are still growing.

Tightrope Procedure.

This is another extracapsular method of repair, but in this case, a hole is drilled through the bottom of the femur, and the top of the tibia. A double band of strong Fiber Tape is passed through these holes and down the outside of the joint, and serves to replace the ruptured cruciate ligament.

This procedure is relatively easy to perform, and is also more affordable than the repairs that involve cutting and manipulating the tibia. It has been shown to be effective in treating cruciate rupture in most sizes of dogs, however many veterinarians prefer to restrict its use to dogs that weigh under 70lbs.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

TPLO is the most commonly recommended method of repairing a ruptured cruciate ligament in dogs. It relies on cutting and rotating the tibia in such a way that the dog’s own weight bearing stabilizes his joint. After the tibia is cut and moved, a metal plate is screwed to the tibia to keep it in its new position.

This is a very complex procedure, and should only be undertaken by veterinarians who have had special training in how to do it correctly. It is expensive, costing several thousand dollars. There are several reasons for this:

It should only be performed by an orthopedic specialist.

  • Multiple x-rays are necessary to make sure the cut in the bone is done in the right place.
  • The metal screws and plate are expensive.

This procedure is suitable for dogs of all sizes. It is particularly appropriate for larger dogs over 50lbs, and for athletic dogs such as those involved in agility competition. It’s not the best choice for dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing, because the physical changes to the tibia can lead to their own set of problems as the bones continue to grow.

As with other methods of cruciate repair, exercise must be restricted for 8 weeks after surgery, and most dogs return to full function after 3-4 months.

Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)


This is another repair method that relies on biomechanics to stabilize the knee joint. The idea behind this relatively new procedure is that if the top of the tibia and the patellar ligament (the ligament from the kneecap to the front of the tibia) are realigned at 90 degrees to each other, the joint will be stable when the dog walks.

Again, the tibia is cut, but this time the front of the tibia where the patellar ligament actually attaches is removed, and moved forward. It is held in position by metal implants, and the gap between the front of the tibia and the rest of the bone is filled by a bone graft.

Although it doesn’t sound like it, the TTA procedure is less invasive, and has similar results to the TPLO surgery. It too is expensive, because of the metal implants and because it must be done by a board certified specialist. Dogs that have had TTA surgery often appear to recover quicker than those with a TPLO, however by 6 months post-operatively, both procedures have a similar outcome.

The TTA is suitable for all dogs, and which procedure your dog undergoes may just depend on your orthopedic specialist’s proficiency at each. You’ll find that some specialists prefer to perform a TTA, while others feel that they get better results from the TPLO procedure.

Post Operative Care

Your orthopedic surgeon will prescribe pain relief to keep your dog comfortable and will give you specific advice on how to care for him after his operation.

After surgery to repair a ruptured cruciate ligament, the most important thing you can do for your dog is to rest him. Ideally, keep him crated and only take him out on a leash to go to the toilet.

Most dogs feel quite well long before their bone has healed, and this is when many owners start to take them for walks or otherwise increase their activity. This can cause breakdown of the surgery, so it is vital that you follow your vet’s directions very carefully.

Post-operative physical therapy can be beneficial to dogs after this type of surgery. This can take the form of massage, hydrotherapy, and gently moving the leg through its range of motion. The results are reduced swelling and inflammation, and increased healing, which will improve your dog’s demeanor and attitude.


A ruptured cruciate ligament is a severe injury, that can have long term effects on your dog’s well-being. Fortunately, it can be treated and in most cases, this results in a return to normal function.

There are two main factors which influence which treatment option is right for your dog.

  • Finances. Some procedures are more expensive than others, and your family budget will have a big impact on how your dog’s knee is repaired.
  • Your dog’s age and size. Some procedures are not appropriate for young dogs, and others are less likely to be successful in large breeds.
  • A third factor is your orthopedic specialist’s preference, and their experience with each of the procedures.

Take the time to discuss your options with your dog’s surgeon, and together you will decide on how to treat your dog so that he again can enjoy going for a walk or playing with you in the park.

143 Responses to “What Should You Do If Your Dog Tears an ACL?”

  1. Dog tore acl ccl says:

    If you can find an honest vet, they will tell you about safer alternatives like a dog knee brace for a torn ACL CCL. Pet Insurance now covers dog knee braces too because a dog wearing a dog knee brace instead of surgery starts healing faster than a dog that has surgery which causes a severe set back or even worst can happen from surgery.

    A new veterinarian told me at a recent dog walk event that some veterinarian schools are beginning to train new vets about using dog knee braces instead of tplo, tta, ccl acl type surgeries as with the success of dog knee braces healing torn acl ccl without any bad side effects that come with joint knee surgery.

    My vet lied and tried very hard to talk me into TPLO surgery for $4650.00, but after extensive research, reading hundreds of comments online about ACL CCL TPLO surgery nightmares, learned about dog knee braces and ended up purchasing several dog knee braces as the first few did not work well enough and were hard to put on. I came across the posh dog knee brace as it had more support and clipped on and off, so it was easier to use then some of the braces that had a harness contraption and other custom dog knee braces had velcro that got all tangled up together or filled with hair. The posh dog knee brace was easy to use, stayed up and helped my dog’s knee heal without surgery. My big shepherd had a badly torn CCL ACL cruciate and badly damaged meniscus. My dog healed over time in a few months with no pain from surgery wearing a dog knee brace daily for dog walks with conservative management and supplements.

    My pet insurance paid for the dog knee braces, which saved my pet insurance a lot of money, then if I had listened to my veterinarian and chose the painful, overly expensive TPLO surgery with a 1 in 3 failure rate which pet insurance would have paid for the surgery too.

    I had a choice, I could have chose the expensive painful tplo surgery but I chose what was best and not painful for my dog. My dog is now healthy, happy and able to go on long dog hikes and healed without surgery.

    It is wonderful to see my dog walking normally now without the brace. I still use the posh dog knee brace for dog walks and outside activities to support the knee so I don’t have to worry about the knee tearing again.

    I recommend searching for a Pet Insurance that covers 80-90% of emergency visits for illness or injury. Any pet emergency can easily cost $1,000′s of dollars and with Pet Insurance one can afford whatever vet care is needed, like in my case, a custom dog knee brace.

    For high vet bills, sign up for a veterinary health care credit card like Care CC, Citi Health CC or Chase Health CC, etc that can be used for veterinary health care for your pets. I used the Care CC as no interest to pay for 6 months. And for major pet emergencies Care CC will give you 12 months no interest. That way, even if you are broke, you can pay the vet with your health CC, and then submit the bill to the Pet Insurance, then the Pet Insurance pays you, and you can pay off your health CC.

    Pet owners must have Pet Insurance as if you don’t have the money to pay for vet care your pet may be killed.

    I hope this is helpful to saving your pets, use pet insurance and health care credit cards, that is how I have survived with the high cost of vet care to pay for any pet emergencies.

    It has worked for me, and I know lots of pet lovers who do the same to make sure they can always afford to care for their pets in these financially tough times.

    By the way I bought the posh dog knee brace that can be found at http://www.PoshDogKneeBrace.com for those with dogs with a torn acl ccl and are looking for a safer alternative that really works and best of all is way cheaper then surgery too.

  2. Deb Nicke says:

    My older beagle, Charlie, tore his ACL. Because he is overweight, my vet said they cannot perform the surgery until he slims down. But, I used to walk him at least a mile every single day, now I cannot walk him at all! The weight-loss process is taking forever. IN the meantime, he is taking Gabapentin, Novox and Muscle Relaxers. Charlie weighs about 55 lbs right now. He has lost a few pounds already, but it’s coming off very slow. He is in so much pain, and now he cannot put any weight on the rear-left leg at all. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thank You!

  3. Frances says:

    So sorry about Maxine. I know my Sophy benefited from the Adequan and acupuncture. I did the acupuncture with her once a month for about 4 months and she hasn’t limped in over 18 months and she is an incredibly active lab

  4. Suellen says:

    My Pit Bull Maxine tore her ACL running tight circles in my front yard. I went to one vet who helped me fill a prescription of Adequane. I gave her two shots twice a week for 4 weeks. Took a few week break and then started 1 shot a week for 8 weeks. I have to say that I have seen noticeable improvement. My dog is under two years old and tries to be very active. Keeping her under restriction has been difficult and no matter how hard I have tried she has escaped now and then and run around like a normal dog. The other week she started to limp a little more than usual so I took her to the vet and had an Xray done and decided to go for the band surgery. After she had been sedated and her leg shaved the vet noticed she had an allergy skin infection and put off the surgery for risks of infection. I was very leery of doing surgery to begin with and I am taking this as a sign not to do it. I am going to continue with the Adequane and not do the surgery and see if she gets better. She doesn’t complain about pain but does limp from time to time. The vet says that due to her breed she may be more tolerant to pain. If this doesn’t work I will do the surgery. Its been 5 months since the injury and trying other alternatives. I can always do the surgery if I find I have to. For now I think I am going to keep doing what I am doing. Also feeding her glucosamine. Good luck to you all.

  5. Ryan says:

    Hot topic! I, like many of the other folks who commented, had lots of questions and felt very confused about the best route to go. I really appreciate that you emphasized the need to choose what makes sense for YOU and YOUR dog.

    For those interested, I ended up choosing conservative therapy and bought a brace for my “senior” dog. I see there was a bit of discussion about the Posh Dog Knee Brace. I chose the A-Trac Brace from Woundwear. Thankfully, this was the right decision for us. My dog made a great recovery–given his age and size. Although, no matter what option you choose–you can be sure there is going to be quite a bit of commitment on your part. Lots of people think surgery is the “quick fix”, but the recovery is difficult. I found that using a brace is difficult too, but it worked for us. Check it out, do research, ask questions and make an informed decision :)

    Good luck to everyone!

  6. BaileysMom says:

    To LabLover, I’m in Phoenix, AZ and am looking into knee braces for my boxer/pit mix. Can you provide the name of the vet that helped you with the Posh Dog Knee Brace?

  7. Janet says:

    We had our 4 yr dog operated on in Mid-Nov/13, for an ACL injury, they put the fish line in to hold everything, problem is he blow out his other knee a week ago, first knee is not strong enough yet to handle the other surgery if we had one done again. Vet says because the first knee is not strong enough yet, he will probably blow out the knee he had surgery on within six months. Any suggestions or thoughts.

  8. Frances says:

    My dog Sophy had TPLO on one leg for an acl tear and I was upset 4 years later when so had a partial tear on her other leg. I was convinced she was going to need surgery but with acupuncture. physical therapy and adaquan she is good to go and has not limped in over 18 months. Sophy is a very active lab so to have her okay without surgery is amazing. Good luck with your pup

  9. Femma says:

    I just found out that my 4 year old active Welsh terrier has a small tear in her ACL, no more lure contest or running for her, I am very upset Her vet recommends physical therapy and acupuncture. She has pain pills and is taking small dose asperin. She walks without pain nor limping it is when she sits she has trouble ( guess it is painful) will a small tear heal and will the physical therapy be helpful in the healing process

  10. Michelle says:

    Hello Elisa,

    Our two Bichons Frises have both have had damaged acl’s over the years. The 13 year year old returned from the vets today with a different leg that is damaged. I honestly cannont image how our 14 year old would deal with this problem and his cognitive canine dysfunction, hearing and sight loss. He is so preoccupied with that that a secondary issue could put him over the edge of permissible anxiety. Not an easy decision- whatever you decide will be in his best interest by the people who know him best. All the best to you.

  11. Nicole says:

    My 9 year old Blue Heeler went through bilateral TTA procedures 4 years ago. His left knee was the first to be operated on, and he now has a chronic painful limp. Radiographs demonstrate moderately severe arthritis. His right knee is much better and also shows development of arthritis, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. He’s a very active dog and it was challenging to keep him from rough housing and jumping. In hindsight I would have been much smarter about his rehab. I think this would have minimized his arthritis.

    My 6 year old pit pull Zoey is having a TPLO surgery tomorrow. I agonized over this decision. It seems foolish to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome, right? Well, having been through this injury myself, I’ve learned that no matter what, an unstable joint that has suffered trauma inevitably gets arthritis, with or without surgery.

    My reason for doing this a third time in a Zoey is because I want to give her the best chance at minimizing the advancement of her arthritis. I’ll not only be a lot smarter about her rehab, but I’ll be starting from a place that minimizes the impact of bone rubbing on bone via the TPLO surgery. I’d rather have that added security as she is healing and re-developing her strength.

    I wish there were more evidence-based studies out there to support conservative management verses surgery,. There are so many other factors like age, size of dog, activity, and finances that play into it. My advice is to optimize therapies that limit forces on the knee, ie: activity restriction , surgery, and medicines to reduce inflammation in the post acute and sub acute stages of healing.

  12. Frances says:


    After having put two of my dogs through the surgery, personally I would try anything before Surgery. But I do not know anything about your dog (age, activity level, size). The surgery decision is a tough one. My big girl Sophy went through it with flying colors but my male Chester, has never been the same.

    When I went to make my decision about the surgery that was what I heard too, that is you don’t get the surgery you dog will have arthritis. Well both my dogs had the surgery and they both have arthritis. I spoke with my holistic vet who does stem cell replacement therapy and she said they generally get arthritis with or without surgery. Each month when she checks my Sophy out she tells me Sophy just doe not know how much she should hurt from the arthritis in her knees.

    But I am not a vet, just a dog mom who has seen my two dogs and many other Raising Healthy Dog friend dogs go through the TPLO surgery and each dog was different.

    I have no experiences with the braces LabLover suggested. But if it were me, I would call a canine Physical Therapist to see if they have any suggestions. My dogs PT does rehab for pets with braces. I will ask her if she has any recommendations.

    Good luck. I know how difficult this must be for you

  13. Lisa says:

    I am very interested in what the author of this website thinks about the knee braces mentioned by Lablover. My fear is the arthritis that the vet tells me will be inevitable without surgery. Does the scar tissue that forms from not repairing the ACL make arthritis worse? Cause arthritis? I love my dog like a child and these surgeries seem very invasive. I really thought the brace was a good idea but I feel like not doing the surgery and using the brace may cause more damage to the knee. I am so conflicted on this. Plus the cost of a brace is not cheap either and what if my dog won’t use it? They are custom so not-refundable. I guess my question is this: WHAT IS BEST FOR MY DOG’S KNEE JOINT?

  14. Louise says:

    I feel for all of you. My 12 year old havanese had a torn acl and I was told the sooner we do the surgery the better it would be for him.
    I’m very happy with our decision to do it because now after about a month, he’s not limping and seems to be improving.
    Our biggest issue is keeping him from jumping off the bed or couch.
    I’m so afraid he will reinjure himself, but at his age I don’t want to crate him at night. The only time I crate him is when no one is home so he doesn’t do any jumping. When I’m around I pick him up and take him on and off couch or bed. My problem is that sometimes he manages to jump off and it totally freaks me out!,
    I guess I just have to take him off the bed or couch every single time I get up to be sure he doesn’t jump.
    It’s exhausting but I love him so much and would be sick if he reinjured himself.. Good luck to all of you..

  15. LabLover says:

    One thing that was not mentioned in this article is recovering from a torn ccl injury with conservative management while using a custom brace made for a dog with a torn ACL. As my wife and I both found out, a well made dog knee brace will accomplish the same goal as surgery – it makes the knee stable while it heals naturally building up scar tissue.

    Our vet immediately insisted that we get the tplo surgery for our 5 year old black lab, Monty, who had a complete ccl torn ligament in late August while jumping out of our pool. We live in Glendale AZ, and found another vet who was more into homeopathic treatment. This vet recommedned a custom leg brace called a posh dog knee brace as an alternative to surgery. Well, we bought one (for about 1/4 the the cost of the surgery).

    It was made in a little over a week, and we got the posh dog knee brace. This contraption was very well made, and seemed to be more ahead of the others in design and the way it worked, or so said the co-owner Jim Morrison (yeah a dead rock star is selling knee braces lol). Turns out he knew what he was talking about. We both were kinda amazed. Monty almost immediately was able to put weight on his leg. The muscle in his back right leg started growing back, since it had kind or shrunk after the injury.

    Now about 4 months later, Monty can go for walks while wearing his poshdogkneebrace for over an hour and a half. This is what we love to do. Go for long walks with out goofy boy (plus driving over to the beach in Laguna Beach)! My wife and I are really thrilled we did NOT get the surgery, which seems to have lots of problems. I recommend looking at a dog knee brace for a ccl tears by poshdogkneebrace.com. They really bend over backwards to help every dog. Our holistic vet is already sending more patients to them, and we are really glad we found a holistic vet who gave us options of other vet never did!

    Also please be careful if you have a pool and don’t let your dog try to get out of the water on a slippery surface!

  16. june says:

    I am not an expert but Liz,any vet that suggest an amputation for an acl rupture you should run far and fast away from. Darius, jumping is the worse thing you can allow your dog to do. There are non surgical methods to do but you must restrict running and jumping, please talk to a orthopedic vet. My 5yo rottie had TPLO surgery done in Oct and yes the 1st couple of weeks are heartbreaking but crating and supporting him with a blanket wrap was rewarded with a great recovery and after 6 weeks he was finally allowed to climb up on the couch and sleep. And we did conservative treatment when he initially injured his ligament last Feb, but when he damaged it again in Oct I chose to finally do the surgery, and yes it is expensive.But the results are worth it.

  17. Lindsay says:

    Hello all,
    I have a 2 year old old English bulldog. Late august she started limping we took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with a torn ACL. We did the TPLO surgery late September. She was doing well and then last week she began limping on her other knee. I am to know of anyone has done both knees on their dog and what the result was.
    Thank you

  18. Kirk Kelley says:

    Our 5 year old Bichon / Poodle Mix tore his Cruciate Ligament the night before Thanksgiving…we saw no improvement for 2 days and took him to the vet who diagnosed and referred us to a surgeon…We chose the TPLO surgery…after a load of due diligence we decided that although really expensive ($3,800)(maybe higher than other areas because we live in Loudon County VA which has the highest per capita household income in the country)it was the best way to go for our doggy…less arthritic problems down the road, 95% recovery, and how would we like to live with one apendage at 20% usability…He goes under the knife on 12/9/2013….I’ll report back

  19. Liz says:

    My dog which is half pit half aust. Shepard was just diagnosed with a torn ACL and the suggestions were surgery or amputation. He is a large dog and already has arthritis starting in his other back leg. He is only 4 but I’m not sure what is our best option. Any opinions?

  20. Pam says:

    Hi Frances,

    We recently adopted a sweet German Shepherd, Delilah. She had been found as a pregnant stray and had given birth to stillborn puppies at the shelter before being rescued. The rescue characterized her as a senior with hip displasia. However, our vet said she had torn both ACLs and most likely had a pelvic injuries possibly due to having been hit by a car. She also has a large bump on her front right paw. All of her injuries appear very old and none had been treated. This was his after a physical exam without X-rays. He said we could do X-rays but the treatment would still be the same due to the age of the injuries, pain management and light exercise to prevent stiffness. He is our long time trusted veterinarian and we have never questioned his opinion in the past but this time I am worried we might be putting her through needless pain if it is possible old injuries would benefit from further treatment. I would very much appreciate your thoughts… Thanks!

  21. Kristin says:

    I have a 10 year old shih tzu. She tore her ACL & mneiscus 18 months ago. We waited a few weeks and kept her on a leash. She seemed to get more and more depressed. We finally had the surgery and it was remarkable how quickly she recovered. The first two weeks were tough. She was in pain the first few days and refused to go potty. She finally gave in after two days. I walked her around the yard with a harness the surgeon gave me. I highly recommend the surgery. She has done great until a few days ago when she tore her other ACL. Heading to the surgeon tomorrow. She does not seem to be as bad as last time so I am hoping we can do one of the less invasive options.

  22. Frances says:

    Uggh, I am so sorry for Lizzy. I am not a vet but I think if it was me I would try conservative management first. It is the same recovery procedure as for surgery. You did not say how old Lizzy is so I think that would impact my decision.

  23. Tes says:

    Just this morning our 8-1/2 year old English Springer Spaniel, Lizzy, was dianogised with a torn ACL. The vet is sedating her to do x-rays to confirm, but he has already recommended the TPLO surgery. We know the recovery period will be a challenge because her twin brother, Robert, is here. They’re both very active. Lizzy also has a disc separation of the L7/S1. We’re very confused about options and what would be the best course to take. We don’t want to put her through all of the surgery, pain, recovery and then have her disc separation fail. We love her dearly and are trying to put her needs above our hearts desire. Do you have any advice? Thank you so much, and God bless you.

  24. Rebecca says:

    My little dog had his 1st acl done 2 mths ago and at first we tried to ‘manage’ it with rest & pain medication for 3-4mths, and giving glucosamine, quarterly arthritis injections, also built ramps for the sofa & bed. The vet wanted to avoid surgery if possible. With the increase in pain his personality started changing and he got snappy so we had to have surgery.
    It cost me $2200 plus time off work. We found his cartlidge had also folded & deteriorated & had no groove for the patella. It was a mess. I think it was similar to ‘tightrope surgery’ but they had to cut the bone for the patella as it slipped a lot.
    I think my little man is a trooper as 1 week after surgery they called him a ‘super healer’. He was walking (under strict supervision).
    Unfortunately the time we used to ‘manage’ the leg while putting all his weight on the good leg has taken its toll. 2 mths to the day he has snapped the ligament in the other hind leg just by running around the back yard. Booked for surgery tomorrow!
    I think he could be in the top 10% of the most expensive adopt-a-dogs :)

  25. cheryl says:

    my dog Sammy tore her acl actually the vet said shredded and she would need surgery, I choose not to have it and keep her very restricted no jumping or climbing the stairs we carried her for first two weeks up the stairs.now she is doing great its been about 3 weeks still a little restricted but doing great no pain using her leg, sometimes babies it but her attitude is good as if nothing happened so please give your dog a few weeks before surgery. she is on rymadil for inflammation

  26. Mary says:

    My Yorkie had acl surgery 2 weeks ago on Saturday of labor day weekend , after an accident. she still can’t put weight on it, although the vet says its normal. I read other sites that say they should be walking already , although restricting movement. I am restricting movement and have even bought her a dog stroller, which has been a lifesaver. How do I know the standard progress milestones?

  27. Mike says:

    This info may help you.
    My dog just had his ACL torn (according to the Vet, all the way) they suggested surgery, however, I got a 2nd opinion from another Vet just moments ago and he said dogs can get around on 3 legs just about as well as 4. He said an alternative was to give him a shot of Adequin (sp?)
    about $30. every month for 3 months or so, with a daily dose of a buffered Aspirin, and something like Pepsid or equivalent Acid Blocker to
    reduce effect of Asprin. It is important to know that this does not heal a fully torn ACL but rather reduces inflammation. His opinion was that at age 8, the injury didn’t require putting the dog down. Hope this helps.

  28. Jack says:

    We have a 24 lbs cockapoo. She started holding up her hind leg and the vet says she has a potential CCL tear. We have a dog sports medicine clinic nearby and we can take her there to be looked at further.

    When you look at the research there is not much out there in any journal about the effectiveness of knee surgey on dogs. Moreover there are as many people saying look at alternatives to surgery than saying it was effective.

    How effective is knee surgery on small dogs?

  29. jessica says:

    hi my 3 years old rescued staffordshire bull terrier had cranial cruciate ligament disease and has ruptured cruicates in both legs my vet put her on bed rest and painkillers and has been monitoring her weekly and is vey happy with her progress her joint is now stable but not enough to last her lifetime so surgery has to be done we are going to see a orthopaedic vet that specialises in cruciate ligaments on friday 13th September 2013 so fingers crossed he can help us.

  30. Frances says:

    I think it depends on a lot of things. But I know I would always try conservative management first before surgery

  31. If your dog has been diagnosed with a ruputured ACL you should definitely consider prolotherapy as a non surgical option. I have been performing prolo-therapy for over 10 years with excellent results (at least 75% success). If laser therapy is added to the prolotherapy an even greater success rate should be expected. The only times when prolotherapy many not be highly recommended is if the dog is very over weight, hard to keep from strenuous activity, or if their is a torn meniscal cartilage in the knee in addtion to the torn ACL. Prolotherapy was first used in humans back in the 1950′s. A great site to learn more about prolotherapy is “caringmedical.com” which although it deals with humans is very informative”.

    Prolotherapy involves sedating the pet, shaving and disinfecting the knee abd then placing multiple injections of a “proliferative agent” in and around the damage joint. The process is repeated at 3 week intervals 4 to 6 times depending on the results accomplished.

    When there is a torn meniscus present in addition to a torn ACL “cytokine therapy” may need to be added to the prolotherapy. You may also want to visit “Myholisticpetvet.com” for more information on prolotherapy. There is also information about prolotherapy on my my main website http://www.doc4pet.com

  32. Chels says:

    Hi. I have a three year old American Cocker Spaniel named Marley. Ever since she was about a year old, she’s had severe ear infections. We’ve fought them for two years and three weeks ago, I decided it was enough. I had her ear canals removed and she seemed to slowly be pepping up. For a dog in chronic pain, she never let it show. Though she did become a couch potato, gain a bit of weight, and let her brother do all the running and playing. It was amazing to see her become interested in things again, and just when I thought the nightmare was over, she began to limp. It started out slow and over the course of the past week the limp has become very pronounced. She doesn’t cry when we touch the leg, but she puts little to no weight on it and her whole body sways as she walks, she looks as if she may fall at any moment. Touching her legs when she lays down, you can feel the ‘resistance’ in the good leg, and the complete limpness of the bad one. The vet seems to think she tore her ACL. I can imagine why, two years of limited exercise and after three weeks of bandage changes, bed rest, and pain killers, she must’ve gone a little too fast and hurt herself. I’m not sure what to do at this point… I’ve just spent over $3,000 on her ears, and now I’m about to possibly spend more on her leg…

  33. Frances says:

    Sorry about your pup. I am not a vet so my comments are those of a dog mom. I think you can try conservative therapy first

    My pups sleep with me so when then had the surgery, I put the mattress on the floor so they did not have to jump.

  34. Darius says:

    My 4 year old rottweiler just tore his ACL and is limping around. It is so hard to give him rest as I have a 3-1/2 year old female rottie that keeps trying to play with him.

    He also likes sleeping with me in bed so he jumps up even with the pain.

    I would feel terrible leaving him in his crate all night. He has slept in bed with me since he was 3 months old :(

    I cannot afford the surgery. Is it possible to do my own physical therapy with him? Do stairs and light jumps onto a couch also really set him back that much?

  35. Barry and Savanna says:

    Hi. My sweet little rescue Pup Savanna partially tore her ACL last November while “fence chasing” a couple of Pit Bulls that would constantly get loose from their Owners. After a Vet visit and therapy with Gyco-Flex III, Deramaxx and Tramadol, there was no surgery recommended. Savanna is a 2 year old mini Vizsla breed and weighs about 42 pounds. I tried to slow down my little Princess after the injury and before the initial partial tear, she would love to run like a cafe racer and would often jump up parallel to my eye level and I am 6’2″. For the last 6 months, the restricted activity and the supplement and medical therapy seemed to work pretty well. Then one morning as I let her out in my fenced backyard, there was a Squirrel and she bolted like a rocket and now it appears she has fully torn the ACL. I am agonizing with this decision process, could you please review any options for leg “Braces”? There appears to be quite a few out there with some claims of success. I cannot stand to see her in any pain and she is now pretty much on 3-legs. Just the thought of the TPLO just sickens me. I would welcome any input from anyone. You see…I thought I rescued Savanna…yet soon found out…she rescued me! Thank you so much for this site and your time and dedication on this. If I may help in any way, please let me know. Blessings to all..;-)

  36. Elizabeth says:

    We need a second opinion.
    Our 12 year old Westie had been limping around (off and on) for a few months until last week when it was consistent limping.
    A visit to the vet told us she has a ACL tear. We were told surgery is needed – where they “create” a ligament with sutures.
    I’m very concerned because of her age, and with her being a small dog I’m wondering about doing the 8 weeks of restricted movement first to see if time will help.
    Any opinions on this with regard to older, small dogs??
    I didn’t like feeling like I’m getting rushed into surgery. Which is how I felt yesterday at the vet’s office.

  37. helena says:

    Thank you for the article, it is very insightful as our scotie has a torn ligament.

  38. Frances says:

    Oh Kimberly, I am so sorry about Duke. You were very lucky to have him as long as you did. My thoughts are with you.


  39. Kimberly Anderson says:

    Update- I posted about my 10 year old rottweiler Duke. The last few weeks have been a nightmare. Late June Duke stopped eating and lost weight I took him to the vet where we discovered he was going into renal failure. We started him on subcutaneous fluids with visits back to the vet everyday for iv fluids. He started to get better then July 4th his health took a turn for the worse. We lost our pup that day and it was heart breaking. I just wanted to let you all know that sites like this make dealing with health issues so much easier to handle. I’ll miss my boy but I am so happy to have had him in my life.

  40. Rachel says:

    Sigh. Looking for advice, opinion, direction or just overall thoughts.
    We have a 4 year old English Springer Spaniel. She’s definitely a ‘hunter’. She is very independent. She HATES being walked on the leash unless she knows we’re going to ‘her play area’ or the beach. Only because she knows once she gets to either of those locations she is then let off leash to flush birds and chase squirrels up the tree.
    About a month ago she started limping. Now, mind you, ever since she was like 6 months we noticed when she would ‘point’ at something she would point by lifting a back leg (not always but often). Well when she started limping a month ago we took her to the vet. The vet said two weeks of rest, glucosamine, pain medicine and did I mention rest? Well it was next to impossible but we sort of did it. She seemed better. Then a week ago, we took her to the beach then the following day we decided to make her play session limited because we didn’t want to take a chance of her over doing it. So we took her on a 4 mile walk. Sure enough, the next day she started limping.
    Our vet did the drawer test the first time we took her and she said she thought it was a sprain. Also, during the first drawer test it just so happened a traveling orthopedic surgeon was in the vet office so he looked at her as well. He said he thought it was just a soft tissue injury.
    Well we went back to our regular vet and she said she thinks it’s a level 3 sprain and possible small tear and recommended we go see another orthopedic surgeon.
    I HATE the thought of breaking a bone to fix a ligament. Money isn’t an issue. She’s like our child. I want the least invasive surgery with a good result.
    She LOVES to swim.
    When we take her for walks now she has a limp. But when we take her off leash she runs as normal (no limp). Yes, I still let her off leash but only once a day instead of twice. I’m a terrible parent but she she looks at me with those eyes and I can’t say no. You can judge me. I judge myself.
    One more thing. It’s foxtail season out here on the west coast. She plays in golden gate park every day. I found a foxtail in the foot that she’s limping on but the vet said that I got the whole thing out and that’s not the issue. The reason I mention this is when I rub her feet she sort of pulls away with the one foot (she limps on that also had the fox tail) but not the other. She’s very stoic so she’s impossible to diagnose.
    But she also has the softest fur because I pet and love her constantly. Not relevant but I just like to say it.
    Any help is much appreciated.

  41. Frances says:

    Oh am so sorry about your dog. I am not a vet so can only comment as a dog mom but I always think about the quality of life. I am sure this has to be painful for you. Right now I watch my dog struggle to walk and do lots of things he used to do. Friends cry when they see him now but I know he is not in pain and he is very happy even hobbling slowing. It is painful to watch but his quality of life is still good. The vet said if I “put him on a shelf and don’t take him out to play too much, he will neer get better but he wont get worse”. I thought that was crazy advice for a 10 year old lab. I would rather him have a shorter happier life than one confined.

    So listen to your heart and look in your dogs eyes to see what he is saying. If the light is gone then is might be time. If he is still happy then wait for the light to go out. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  42. Elesa says:

    I need an opinion. A couple of years ago my 11 year old Lhasa apso partially tore his ccl. Not wanting to put him through surgery we kenneled him to keep him “on bed rest”. Within a week and a half he was up on it again and within few weeks was getting around fine. Since then he has developed canine cognitive dysfunction (he wanders about clueless, has panic attacks, and has for the most part lost his potty training), some sort of vision problem that acts like glaucoma, but comes and goes with Rx drops, he has lost his hearing, and now two years to the day from the first he has blown out his other knee. This one is a complete tear. Vet says not a surgery candidate, which I wouldn’t do at his age (13) anyway. It’s been a week, and no sign of improvement. If anything it’s getting worse. Since his “good” leg is already weak from the previous injury I see him hobble around, panting and freaking out, and today I notice that when he does walk around, he has to kind of hop on that good leg but then falls over because that one is so weak. I’m really thinking it is time to let him go. I can’t stand watching this, but can’t see it getting better at his age. I can’t keep him confined in his kennel all the time because with his CCD he literally goes into a panic attack when I close the door to it. Any thoughts? Like I said, it’s only been a week but I can’t stand watching this,

  43. Frances says:

    Hi John,

    Sorry about Sadie. Both of the surgeries require pretty much the same recovery period. My high-energy lab Sophy was also not a fan of the crate so I got an exercise pen that was big enough to give me some room to lounge and stretch and because it does not have a top on it she did not seem so confined. I had a couple of them set up around the house and outside so she was always a part of the action even though confined. Check out http://topdoghealth.com/home-rehab-guides/ they have free downloadable home recovery guides for various surgeries. I know if I had it to do over again, I would have done conservative management first before I did the surgery to see if I can avoid it. Good luck and give Sadie a big old kiss!

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