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Talk to me re torn ACL

My smaller dog (26 lbs, not fat, active) was just diagnosed with a tear in acl. He is somewhere around 13, and part dachshund with some maybe border collie thrown in.

Vet is suggesting a 3-4 week conservative management to see how he does - NSAIDS, house arrest, leash to go potty. Then reevaluate. In all my years of dogs, have never had this. Have done some internet searches and am wondering if anyone here has dealt with this in a smaller dog. What did you do, what were the outcomes, and did the dog ultimately have a problem with the other leg as well?

Smaller dogs generally cope better than larger dogs. I admire your vet for recommending conservative therapy before surgery. Surgery on a 13 year old would worry me. He needs to not jump or run or slip. Try a ramp for his chair and if you have slippery floors it’s time for a rug! Be careful with the NSAIDs. It’s good to keep the inflammation down but you don’t want him feeling too good! If it’s once daily dosing, give it at dinner. The good leg likely has the same conformational issues that led to the injury in bad leg and now if he jumps the good leg will have to do more of the work. As hard as it is, he can’t play and run crackerdog. Once cleared with your vet, moderate exercise will help keep up his muscling. Good luck!

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I work for a vet who does these surgeries and he has a similar approach as your vet. He prefers to wait and rest them for a month and see if some scarring will occur and give enough stability to not need surgery. If during the rest phase the leg is re-injured again then often times surgery will be required so rest is key.
They can be more prone to tear the 2nd one but plenty of dogs don’t.
We see these incidents alot and the fact that your dog is a good weight, normally active, and generally smaller are all positives for his recovery.


My 88 yo Mom’s 22lb 12-ish cocker spaniel tore hers. I took her to two different vets and both pushed for surgery. We (Mom and I) just were not in a place to do surgery…either monetarily or for the rehab protocol. I had just had back surgery and Mom sure as heck couldn’t lift the dog so there you are. We altered the dog door so she could not launch out of it…that is how she did it in the first place…and kept her quiet and she recovered quite well. I am pretty sure she did have some arthritis but not to frank lameness just stiff when she first got up from laying down.


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Our 6 year old Vizsla had a TPLO last year around this time. She is back to 100% now. Surgery was really the only viable option, as she is a full-out hunting dog.

We did all the things for recovery - small x pen when not supervised, water treadmill, rehab with PT specialist. For awhile, even after being fully released, she would be 3 legged for about 12 hours after a training session. Now that doesn’t happen, she’s fine.

All that said - I don’t know that I would spend the big money on TPLO for a dog that’s 13. Could you ask your vet about the bilateral suture surgery, cost and recovery wise?

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Yes, with a full out hunting dog and young, I can see that would be the option. I am fortunately able to handle the surgery, both financially and timewise. But I am comfortable with the vet’s recommendation for now. I suspect we would go with the suture version if it gets to that point. From what I’ve read, it works well on the smaller dogs.
My worry is that my guy THINKS he is a full out hunting dog :roll_eyes: in our 1/2 acre back yard and has the squirrel carcasses to vouch for some success. I’m going to have to reprogram his little brain… When your dog did go back to work how did you handle the 3-legged thing? How did you know it wasn’t a system fail? I would panic, lol.

Thanks! Fortunately I am able to do surgery if it gets to that but hoping not to. He is a smart dog and I’m working on convincing him it is not necessary to take a flying leap onto the couch or bed, so learn the new way. I feel bad for him when I leave to walk my other dog.

We just observed. Since it was only 8-12 hours worth of 3 legged, it didn’t raise the red flag. A little previcoxx/deramaxx/rimadyl depending on how hard the training session was, and just wait until the next morning.

It was nerve wracking to start, no doubt.

Our 12 1/2 year old beagle/shepherd mix ruptured her right hind CCL two years ago chasing a deer in the back yard. Vet recommended surgery. We opted to give it a month. She already sleeps a lot so it got plenty of rest. After the first 7-10 days, I took her out for very short, controlled walks. She has done just great. You would have to look closely to see the very slight hitch in her giddyup.

We do have to chase the deer, bunnies and squirrels off before we let her out in the back yard. She will still give chase and then come up lame for a few days.

Good luck with whatever path you follow. She loved the Dasaquin soft chews and I think they helped.

Thanks for your story! We are at exactly 21 days today. He has been a pretty good patient ex the day he sneaked out beside my larger dog and took a short run. :open_mouth: Sometimes looks sound, sometimes slight limp, much improved. My current challenge is that because he feels better, he’s a bit busier; hates to miss anything. But only outsides have been to backyard on a leash for “nature calls”. I’m going to check back with the vet later this week. I’ve read it takes a long time for scar tissue to fully develop.

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Please provide the logic, and the references, for this statement. Pain impedes healing. The end period full stop.

OP give the meds your veterinarian prescribed.

The logic is if it is an injury that can be worsened by use, and the dog does not have discomfort to limit use, and dogs cannot understand the concept of staying quiet to allow an injury to heal, NSAIDS can be counter productive. I recommended evening dosing when the dog will tend to be quieter. I did not recommend contravening veterinary instructions. Sounds like the patient is making a good recovery.