Did You Know That Dogs Can Tear Their ACLs?

by Sleddoggin Staff on April 6, 2012

Buck is a Samoyed, a big white fluffy sled dog. He has always lived with his master in the mountains, and spends his days pulling a sled full of children, logs, groceries and what not. He loves it. He’d pull the sled empty if it were up to him. Buck has always been healthy and happy. Samoyeds are a pretty sturdy breed.

About a week ago, however, Buck was frolicking ahead, his sled behind him, and suddenly yelped and began to limp. Buck’s owner was certain that he had stepped on something sharp – or worse been bitten by something. Further examination of Buck’s back leg, which he would not put on the ground, confounded Buck’s owner. There were no puncture marks and no blood, so Buck’s owner put Buck in the sled and brought him home.

At first, Buck’s owner was convinced it was just a sprain. Though Buck continued to limp, he seemed to be okay otherwise. When Buck’s condition persisted, and his knee joint became swollen, Buck’s owner took him to the vet. The vet examined Buck and explained that he had torn his ACL – Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

Torn ACL – What Does It Mean? For Buck, it means that he probably slipped and twisted his knee, and now the bones of his knee rub together when he walks, causing him pain. For another dog, it could me a sharp impact caused the ACL to tear, or even that the ligament was worn away by a degenerative disorder – or obesity. Treatment for Buck’s torn ACL ranges from medical to surgical.

Medical Treatment If for some reason, a vet doesn’t feel that a surgery is necessary or doable – this can be because of pre-existing health conditions or because the tear in the ACL is not severe – Buck would have restricted movement guidelines. He would have some type of medication to deal with the inflammation and pain, and eventually, his ligament would heal, with help from the medical treatment.

Surgeries If Buck’s tear is severe, or he is young and healthy enough for surgery, he will get one of 3 procedures to fix his ACL. One surgery re-creates the ligament and others – the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO, and the tibial tuberosity advancement, or TTA. Both involve relocating a portion of the tibia bone to stabilize the joint. The first surgery is the least invasive, and therefore has the fastest recovery time – but each of the surgeries has the potential for a full recovery for Buck.

Physical Therapy for Buck Whether as a part of the medical treatment, or as a follow up to the surgical one, physical therapy is an integral part of Buck’s healing process. Without it, it is likely that he will not make a full recovery – and may even tear the ACL in his other knee as a result of overcompensating for his weak leg. Buck’s owner must be committed to helping Buck with his healing, taking him through physical therapy exercises, and following the Vet’s instructions carefully.

Buck cannot be happy unless he can be active again, and as his owner, Buck’s owner is also his caretaker and his friend. Buck is his owner’s responsibility. Owning a dog like Buck is fun, but it can’t always just be that. Times like this, when Buck needs help, owning a dog can be work. Buck’s owner is responsible for helping Buck make a full recovery so that they can both be happy and active, and have fun again – and if you ever find yourself in Buck’s owner’s shoes, that is, owning a dog with a torn ACL, hopefully you’ll remember how much your dog needs your help.

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