How to Tell if a Dog Has a Torn ACL

How to Tell if a Dog Has a Torn ACL

As a responsible dog owner, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in your furry companion. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from this common knee injury, and early detection can greatly enhance the chances of successful treatment. In this article, we will discuss how to tell if a dog has a torn ACL and provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of a Torn ACL in Dogs:

1. Limping: One of the most common signs of a torn ACL is limping or favoring one leg over the other. The limp may be more noticeable after exercise or during activities that put strain on the affected leg.

2. Difficulty walking: Dogs with a torn ACL may have trouble walking or may walk with a stiff gait.

3. Swelling: Swelling around the knee joint is a common symptom of a torn ACL. It may be warm to the touch and accompanied by pain or discomfort.

4. Inability to bear weight: A dog with a torn ACL may avoid putting weight on the affected leg or may have difficulty standing up.

5. Audible popping sound: Some dogs may experience an audible pop at the time of injury. However, this is not always the case.

6. Muscle atrophy: Over time, the muscles around the knee joint may start to waste away due to lack of use. This can lead to a noticeable loss of muscle mass in the affected leg.

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7. Joint instability: A dog with a torn ACL may have an unstable knee joint, causing it to give out or buckle under pressure.

8. Reluctance to jump or climb stairs: Dogs with a torn ACL may be hesitant to jump or climb stairs, as these activities put additional strain on the injured leg.

9. Pain or discomfort when touched: Dogs with a torn ACL may exhibit signs of pain or discomfort when the affected leg is touched or manipulated.

10. Behavioral changes: Some dogs may become more irritable or show signs of depression when they have a torn ACL.

11. Change in sitting posture: A dog with a torn ACL may sit with the affected leg extended outwards or may avoid sitting on that leg altogether.

12. Decreased activity level: Due to pain and discomfort, dogs with a torn ACL may become less active and reluctant to engage in physical activities they previously enjoyed.


1. Can a dog tear their ACL by jumping or running?
Yes, dogs can tear their ACL by jumping, running, or engaging in any activity that puts excessive stress on the knee joint.

2. Is a torn ACL a common injury in dogs?
Yes, a torn ACL is one of the most common knee injuries seen in dogs, especially in larger breeds.

3. Will a torn ACL heal on its own?
No, a torn ACL will not heal on its own. Professional veterinary intervention is necessary to provide appropriate treatment.

4. How is a torn ACL diagnosed in dogs?
A veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and may also recommend X-rays or other diagnostic tests to confirm a torn ACL.

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5. What are the treatment options for a torn ACL in dogs?
Treatment options may include surgery, physical therapy, and pain management medications.

6. How much does ACL surgery cost for dogs?
The cost of ACL surgery can vary depending on various factors such as the size of the dog, the severity of the injury, and the geographical location. It is best to consult with your veterinarian for an accurate estimate.

7. Can a dog walk with a torn ACL?
While some dogs may still be able to walk with a torn ACL, it is not recommended as it can worsen the injury and lead to further complications.

8. How long does it take for a dog to recover from ACL surgery?
The recovery period after ACL surgery can vary but usually takes around 8-12 weeks. Strict post-operative care and rehabilitation are vital for a successful recovery.

9. Can a dog with a torn ACL live a normal life?
With appropriate treatment and rehabilitation, many dogs can go on to live a relatively normal life after a torn ACL.

10. Can a dog tear their ACL again after surgery?
While it is possible for a dog to tear their ACL again after surgery, following post-operative care guidelines and avoiding excessive strain on the knee joint can minimize the risk of re-injury.

11. Can a dog wear a brace instead of having surgery for a torn ACL?
Braces can provide some support and stability, but they are not a substitute for surgical intervention. In most cases, surgery is the recommended treatment for a torn ACL.

12. Can I prevent my dog from tearing their ACL?
While it may not be possible to completely prevent a torn ACL, maintaining a healthy weight, providing regular exercise, and avoiding activities that put excessive strain on the knee joint can help reduce the risk.

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In conclusion, being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a torn ACL in your dog is crucial for early detection and appropriate treatment. If you suspect your dog has a torn ACL, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and guidance on the best course of action. With proper care and treatment, your furry friend can recover and continue to enjoy a happy and active life.