The anterior cruciate ligament connects the femur bone above a dog's knee to the tibia bone below his knee. Veterinarians commonly call it the cranial cruciate ligament or CCL to distinguish it from a human's ACL. A twisted, torn or inflamed ACL is very painful and is a leading cause of lameness in dogs. Injuries to this ligament are caused by accidents such as when the dog jumps or falls, steps in a hole, becomes entangled or is hit by a moving object. A dog's knee can also sustain damage through aging, or body weight and structure attributed to larger breeds. Give your dog the treatment and care he needs as soon as you discover an ACL injury.
Watch your dog for lameness, the most common symptom of an ACL injury. Check her knees for swelling or tenderness if she is begins to limp, to avoid putting pressure on one leg or to stop participating in active play.
Consult a veterinarian to diagnose any lameness you observe in the dog and to help make best decision on how to proceed. Discuss treatment options with your vet. Take aggressive action, such as surgery or anti-inflammatory injections, if the vet feels that the torn ACL injury is serious. Consider less invasive methods such as pain medication, therapy or a combination of treatments if your vet says these might work best.
Follow your veterinarian's instructions if she performs surgery to repair the torn ACL. Encourage rest with as little activity as possible at home for the first few days after surgery. Increase the dog's activity on the schedule the vet suggests. Control the pace of walking by keeping the dog on a leash. Take several short walks during the day rather than a longer one that may increase soreness or swelling around the repaired knee.
Follow recommended therapy to go along with after-surgery care or if you are treating your dog with supplements and medications. Engage the dog in low-impact exercise such as short, then longer walks, swimming and indoor play that does not involve jumping or running. Learn to gently move and stretch the dog's leg to help strengthen the knee area. Ask your veterinarian to show you the safest and most effective ways to perform the stretching therapy.