What happens if a Dog ACL Tear goes untreated - Preventing Further Damage


A dog ACL tear is a common injury that can cause significant lameness and pain in affected dogs. The ACL is a major stabilizing ligament in the dog's hind leg, and when it is torn, it can lead to instability in the knee joint and a range of other problems. If a dog ACL tear goes untreated, it can lead to further damage to the knee joint and other surrounding structures, as well as potentially worsening the dog's overall quality of life.

Main Consequences:

One of the main consequences of an untreated ACL tear is the development of osteoarthritis in the affected joint. When the ACL is torn, the knee joint becomes unstable, which can cause abnormal wear and tear on the joint surface. Over time, this can lead to degeneration of the cartilage, the smooth and protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones in the joint. When the cartilage breaks down, it can result in pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the joint.

Another potential consequence of an untreated ACL tear is the development of a condition called "cranial drawer motion." This occurs when the top part of the tibia (the shin bone) is able to move forward excessively, causing the knee joint to become unstable. This can lead to further damage to the cartilage and other structures within the joint, as well as potentially leading to a complete rupture of the ACL.

In addition to the physical consequences of an untreated ACL tear, it can also have a significant impact on a dog's overall quality of life. Dogs with an unstable knee joint may have difficulty standing, walking, and engaging in their usual activities, which can lead to weight gain, muscle atrophy, and decreased mobility. They may also experience pain and discomfort, which can impact their behavior and their ability to enjoy their usual activities.

Preventing further Damage:

To prevent further damage and improve the long-term outlook for dogs with ACL tears, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Treatment options for ACL tears may include surgery to repair or reconstruct the ligament, as well as physical therapy and other rehabilitation measures to help the dog recover and regain their full range of motion. In some cases, non-surgical treatment options, such as weight management and medication, may also be recommended to help manage pain and inflammation.

In conclusion, untreated dog ACL tears can lead to further damage to the knee joint, as well as a decreased quality of life for affected dogs. To prevent these negative outcomes, it is important to seek veterinary care and follow treatment recommendations such as surgery or dog knee braces, as soon as possible.

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  • Nyland, T. G., & Dvm, D. C. (2016). Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs. In Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy (pp. 187-210). John Wiley & Sons.

  • Budsberg, S. C., & Dvm, D. C. (2009). Non-Surgical Management of Cruciate Ligament Deficiency in Dogs. In Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology (pp. 125-139). John Wiley & Sons.

  • Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). Osteoarthritis in Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.arthritis.org/animals/dogs/conditions/osteoarthritis.

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