Dog ACL Tear Options

Dog ACL tears are the most common orthopedic injury in dogs. The diagnosis is simple but needs to be approached properly. If your dog is continuously or intermittently limping on one of his/her back legs, this would indicate a possible ACL injury.

The first thing you should do is just observe your dog to see if it is a continuing issue or that it was just a temporary injury. Do not wait longer than a few days before calling your vet for an examination. Should your vet find that the localization of the dogs pain is the Stifle or Knee joint, then several X-rays should be taken of the Stifle or Knee joint. However, X-rays are not to diagnose an ACL tear but to rule out other possible causes of lameness. The vet will then perform a Drawer Test where the vet pulls the lower leg forward on the upper leg to determine if there is shifting or movement of the lower leg forward at the Stifle or Knee joint. Should this be positive, then there are a number of options for treatment.

Three of the surgical procedures are extra capsular (outside the joint), such as artificial products or the dogs own tissues to stabilize the abnormal movement of the joint. These have less postoperative risks but have a fairly low risk of complication. The final surgical procedure is called a TPLO or Trans positional osteotomy. This is a high risk procedure and involves cutting the Tibial head from the shaft. The head of the Tibia which is the lower portion of the Stifle joint is rotated to a more parallel position to the ground, theoretically making the joint more stable. This is held in place by an upside down L-shaped plate with five screws. If this procedure was performed on a human, the individual would be in a full leg cast as well put in a brace and given crutches to use for eight weeks. If anything loosens, this procedure can result in a non-union which is a very serious complication. Infections can be more serious because bone is exposed. This would be my last choice for a procedure.

Conservative treatment of an ACL partial or full tear should be treated with an ACL Brace such as the A-TraC Dynamic Brace from WoundWear Inc.. The A-TraC Brace has no significant complications and it has a very good success rate. Should the brace not work it does not lessen success with surgery and it can be used as a post-operative brace following surgery. Conservative treatment is almost always the best initial treatment.

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One Response to “Dog ACL Tear Options”

  1. freemals
    July 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Wound wear bilateral brace has saved our dog Bode’s life. There is no way we could afford surgery on both knees. He was hurting and depressed. We got the brace and he is running and jumping after less than a month. The pep is back in his eyes and he is our Bode again. He’s 115 lbs and is rough on the brace. We may have to redo the velcro by sewing new pieces on but well worth the price to have our boy happy again. Thanks!

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