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Treating an ACL Tear in Pets: Symptoms & Treatment Options

If your dog or cat is limping, an ACL tear (ruptured anterior cruciate ligament tear) may be the cause for this leg pain. A dog ACL or cat ACL tear are two of the most common orthopedic injuries affecting pets. An ACL tear is extremely painful for pets and prompt care is necessary to relieve this pain and stabilize the knee joint.

Orthopedic Surgery for Cat & Dog ACL Tear Injuries

In order to understand what happens when an ACL tears, it is important to understand the anatomy of your dog’s knee joint. A dog has two cruciate ligaments in the knee that crisscross in the space between the femur and the tibia. These ligaments prevent the bones from moving forwards or backwards against each other. There are two common scenarios in which your pet may tear his ACL. Your young, active dog may tear the ligament when running, playing fetch, or chasing a squirrel. A young kitten might tear the ACL when chasing a bird or running and jumping outside. For older pets, the tear can occur due to weakened ligaments or arthritis. The entire joint may have degenerated with age, which increases the risk for injury.

No matter how the injury occurs, the symptoms of a dog ACL tear or cat ACL tear are very similar. These symptoms include an onset of lameness and limping. The leg pain may be so intense that your pet is unable to put their leg down, and any pressure on the leg can be very unpleasant.

If your pet has a torn ACL, there are several treatment options. Surgery is one of the most popular and effective treatment options, especially for younger pets. Surgery is necessary to prevent excess movement around the knee joint. Without surgery, this excess movement can lead to arthritis, and increase the risk for future orthopedic injuries. Our veterinarian has substantial experience performing complex pet surgeries, including orthopedic surgery. While we recognize this surgery may not be the best choice for every pet, we do strongly encourage pet owners to consider this treatment option for young pets with many years left to live. The major drawback to orthopedic surgery is the lengthy recovery period; rehabilitation following surgery typically lasts around six months.

In some cases, however, orthopedic surgery may not be your pet’s best treatment option. Due to the lengthy recovery period, older pets may struggle considerably with this recovery. In this case, the surgery may ultimately have a detrimental effect on their quality of life, especially if they future life expectancy is already limited. If our veterinarian feels that your pet is not a good candidate for surgery, there are additional treatment options to help relieve your pet’s acute and chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory medication, along with natural supplements, will help ease your pet’s pain and stabilize the knee joint.

To learn more about treatment options for a dog ACL tear or cat ACL tear, contact us today!