My seven year old dog Abe is an athlete. I say this with the utmost confidence because he is among the lucky and talented dogs that can catch a ball anytime, anywhere. It is amazing to see just how fast he can pluck a ball out of mid-air after spinning around and doing a few acrobatic moves. My husband and I are always saying “did you see what Abe just DID?”
All of this talent has finally caught up with him though. After limping around for a few days too many I took him to his veterinarian. A couple of x-rays later, what I hoped wouldn’t be true came to fruition…he has torn his ACL in his right hind leg.
What is an ACL tear? ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament which crosses in the joint from the femur to the tibia. A ligament is a fibrous band of tissue and can be torn or partially torn. In Abe’s case, we believe it is fully torn.
Now, you see, I knew this would most likely happen. But how do you keep an All Star on the bench? Many of my customers’ similarly skilled dogs have had this surgery. I have talked many people through the 12 week recovery period and loved on many cone headed muzzles.
Abe and I go to his consultation with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Hay, on February 3. It will all begin that day, more x-rays, choosing which surgery option, coming to terms with paying anywhere from $1,800-$2,600 and learning about the recovery period.
In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some of the warning signs, breeds who are at risk, how an ACL is torn and what you can expect from recovery. I do hope that your dog will not have to go through this…but if he/she does, you will have an idea of what you and your dog can expect.
Warning signs: Sudden limping, swollen knee, holding the foot of the affected leg off the ground, dog may start using the let again but lameness often returns.
How is it diagnosed? A veterinarian can diagnose an ACL tear by manipulating the knee joint. X-rays are also used to assess the problem and to determine if arthritis is present.
How does it happen? A tear can occur if a dog is overweight therefore putting too much pressure on the joint. Commonly, the ACL is torn when a dog twists on his hind leg. This is what Abe does as he catches his ball or slips on our floor when running through the house. Usually, a tear happens gradually over time and sudden lameness is the result.
Breeds: Some breeds are more prone to ACL tears than others: the Labrador, Rottweiler, Bichon Frise, St. Bernard are among them.
Post Surgery: After the surgery, dogs must be controlled and can only take low impact walks and/or swim as directed by a veterinarian. Overweight dogs must lose a few pounds to take off the excess stress on the leg. Recovery time is 8-12 weeks.
So it begins, Abe’s three month procedure. Watch out for him this summer though…he will be better than before and leading our pack around Davis Islands.
We will keep you updated on our visit with Dr. Hay and our surgery experience.