How to take care of ACL affected dogs at home - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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How to take care of ACL affected dogs at home

‘We have compiled a list of things you can do at home to ease the suffering of your ACL affected, furry friend.’

One of the most common but painful orthopedic problems that most dogs face is a torn ligament injury. ACL, also called  CCL and often used interchangeably, stands for the Cranial Cruciate Ligament. CCL connects the back of the femur (thigh bone) to the front of the tibia (shin bone). By joining these bones, CCL is responsible for stabilizing the knee.

Injuries to CCL usually occur because of degeneration occurring over the years as dogs naturally grow older. Acute injuries can also occur due to vigorous physical activities such as running or jumping. Usually, when a dog gets a CCL injury in one leg, they compensate for the pain by putting extra weight on the other leg. This often leads to a CCL injury in the other leg as well. Certain breeds such as Labrador, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, English Bulldog, Pit Bull, and Rottweilers are genetically more prone to getting a CCL injury. Issues like obesity and hip dysplasia can also cause a tear in the dogs’ CCL.

An injury to the ACL affects a dog’s knees, causing them to limp. Their knee joint often gets swollen and dogs struggle to bear weight on their injured leg. In addition to showing lameness while walking, they are reluctant to move or engage in activities due to having difficulty standing up or sitting down.

Upon noticing an ACL injury in their dog, most people believe surgery is the only option. However, surgery is not required for every case because minor tears to the ACL can be rehabbed without surgery.

Ways you can take care of your ACL affected dog at home

While many cases require surgery, when an ACL tear is a minor one, it can be taken care of and healed at home. It usually takes a few weeks to a few months for minor ACL tears to heal. Here are some home care techniques that you can adopt.

  • The first and foremost thing to do for your canine is to reduce their activity and encourage them to rest as much as they can. Resting will prevent them from exerting more pressure on their injured leg, reducing pain and giving their ligament time to heal naturally.
  • One way to avoid spending money on expensive surgeries is to invest in a special canine knee brace. A knee brace will provide much-needed support. It stabilizes the knee joint and allows the ligament to heal. Combining a knee brace for assistance with proper rest can ease your canine friend out of its pain.
  • Since excess weight in dogs can lead to an ACL rupture, you can try reducing your pooch’s weight by combining a healthy diet with non-vigorous physical activity. Dogs can immensely benefit from a healthy diet that gradually reduces their calorie intake. Since your dog must rest as much as possible, their exercises should be non-strenuous and carried out with extra caution. Though non-vigorous, you should always consult a physical therapist before trying these exercises on your dog.
  • You can also use a sling to help your canine find balance while walking on slippery floors or stairs. A sling is a piece of fabric looped under the canine’s stomach to take the weight off their injured leg. It is an inexpensive way to help your dog and can be easily made out of a soft towel or blanket at home.
  • Taking your dog for a relaxing massage or giving them one yourself can also help ease their pain. Massage is a very effective, non-surgical way to help your dog. It should be kept in mind to not just focus the massage on the injured knee but other body parts as well. Massaging your canine will improve their blood circulation, reduce swelling in their knee, and relieve them of the pain. It will also help you bond more with your dog. Combine the massage with an ice pack to further calm their swelling.
  • Another option is acupuncture. This is a helpful home care treatment for dogs with ACL injuries. It improves your dog’s blood flow to their knee, giving the ligament strength to heal by itself.
  • As a pet owner, you can speed your dog’s recovery by including anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory plants like yucca and spices like turmeric in their diet. Herbs such as ‘Alfalfa’ and ‘Devil’s Claw’ can also provide similar relief. Include fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A and E, such as berries and carrots, as they have high-oxidant properties. Please consult your veterinarian before use.

You can indeed provide relief and help your dog recover naturally through home care techniques that are both inexpensive and effective. However, it is always advisable to consult a professional. Here, a physical therapist can be of great help. Several problems that dogs face can be treated with physical therapy, including arthritis, ACL tears, and hip dysplasia. A physical therapist can employ various techniques such as laser, electrical stimulation, thermotherapy, PEMF, range-of-motion and stretching exercises which help a dog recover from ACL injury without undergoing painful surgery. In addition to healing your dog’s ligaments, physical therapy will strengthen their body and improve their quality of life.

For more info check out our ACL/CCL page: