Articles from Dr. James St. Clair, DVM.

Founder of TopDog Animal Health and Rehabilitation

The 5 Reasons So Many Dogs Tear Their Cruciate Ligament

dog-being-discharged-from-pet-hospitalWhy is it that ACL injuries in dogs is the most common orthopedic injury is all of veterinary medicine?  Did nature not make this ligament strong enough in dogs? Is it due to bad breeding or are there other factors in play here with relation to this injury? This question comes up a lot in discussions with my clients.  At the end of the day they want to know why their dog got this injury. Here are the 5 Most Common predisposing factors to ACL injuries in dogs.
  1. Bad Breeding: We are all familiar with the term hip dyplasia. It has been well documented that the two most common causes of this disease condition in dogs are bad breeding and over nutrition at a young age. We will dig into this more in a future post. But how do hip problems lead to ACL injury?  It is simple. Compensation.  Over the years we have made the direct coorelation that if a dog blows their right ACL then you must X-ray the hips and many times you will see that the left hip is not good. This all makes sense right? If your left hip hurts an you are going to compensate and place more weight and stress on your right leg. Over time this added stress weakends the Cranial Cruciate Ligament in that right knee.  All it takes is the right movement or hyperextention in the right and POW you blow the right.
  2. Natural Load: Dogs walk with their knees bent at all times. This means that the ACL ligament always is “loaded” ie. carrying weight. Whereas in humans we walk with force on our knees straight up and down. This is why in people we mostly see injury to the ACL in athletes who hyperextend the knee, for example football or basketball players.
  3. Weight: It is well documented that approximately 50% of dogs today are clinically overweight and in most cases obese. Obviously the more weight on the ligament the more strain over time.
  4. Week-end Warrior Syndrome: This is what I call the plague of the domestic dog. Most dogs are natural athletes but in western society due to our lifestyle and work schedules we dont give are dogs enough exercise on a regular basis. And then when we do allow them to be dogs and exercise more often than not we overdo it. Obviously lack of exercise means weaker muscle and weaker soft tissue ligament and therefore making them more prone to injury. The most common description of this injury is the dog was chasing a ball, squirrel, other dog and then the owner heard a Yelp and then dog came back into the house holding the leg up.
  5. Lack of Recognizing Early Warning Signs: Many times dogs have joint health issues which are underlying and go undiagnosed by both pet owners and veterinarians due to lack of peoples understanding of what I call the 12 subtle signs of arthritis. Check out the video discussing these 12 signs at www.dogarthritischallenge.com.

So the sum and substance is this:

In order to give your dog the best opportunity of avoiding and injury to their ACL, make sure that they are of ideal body weight, exercise them on a regular basis and don’t allow them to overdo it without proper conditioning, get a prophaltix X-ray taken of their hips and lumbar spine to ensure good body structure and lastly be informed about the early warning signs of arthritis