Ask the Vet: Dogs and ACL Injuries

Logo courtesy of Covedale Pet Hospital

Today is the first installment of my Ask the Vet feature with Dr. Bill Obert of Covedale Pet Hospital. Dr. Bill is Clancy and Nate’s vet, and was the vet of my cats Thomas and Tigger before that, so my animals and I have known him for decades and he’s the best vet any pet or pet person could ask for. Thanks for answering our questions here, Dr. Bill!

The dog pictured above, happily running and jumping, could suddenly yelp and hold one of his back legs even though he seemed completely fine just seconds earlier. One minute he’s having fun, the next he can’t put weight on his back leg. Why? One reason could be because he has torn his ACL.

I know all too well what happens when a dog has an ACL injury. My dog Clancy tore both of his last summer, and his recovery was long and painful. So my question for Dr. Bill is:

I know ACL injuries are very common in dogs. Is there anything we can do to prevent these injuries or to at least minimize the risk that our dogs will get them?

Answer:

“No, unfortunately there is no specific way to prevent ACL tears. Many factors can play a role in ACL injuries.  Some breeds are at higher risk for the injuries, including Rottweilers,  German Shepherd,  Labrador Retrievers, and Newfoundlands. But any breed can injure their ACL. Dogs in middle-age are the most likely to be stricken with this type of injury. 

Overweight and obese dogs are at higher risk of ACL tears, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight may decrease your dog’s chance of injury. Some actions also lead to a higher risk. These include frequent twisting and turning and rapid stopping while running or playing. “Weekend warrior” dogs are also at greater risk of developing injury. “Weekend warriors” are dogs who are sedentary most of the time but then jump right into an lengthy or strenuous exercise activity and overdo it. Just like with people, it is best for dogs to start slowly in any exercise program and work up to increased distances and speeds.  This is especially true if your dog does not get much exercise during the cold weather months. You can decrease your dog’s risk of injury by gently working your way back to regular exercise when the warm weather returns and you and your dog both want to get outside.”

So there you have it. There’s no sure-fire way to prevent ACL injuries but we can at least decrease our dogs’ chances of being afflicted with this painful injury.

Have you had a dog who suffered an ACL injury? If so, Clancy and I feel your (and your dog’s) pain!

Do you have a health or behavior question about your pet that you would like to ask Dr. Obert? If so, send your questions to me at julie@julieflanders.net and we can feature your question in a future Ask the Vet column.

Thanks again for your advice, Dr. Obert!

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