ACL injuries – know your options – this is a great message for anyone whose dog has been diagnosed with a cruciate ligament injury.
In my canine massage and rehab practice, I work with dogs from the acute injury stage through to rehabilitation. Many owners would prefer not to have surgery, for a variety of reasons including concerns about the costs and post-surgery care responsibilities. Low level laser therapy, massage, acupressure, nutrition and weight control, plus other techniques like targeted exercise programs and braces can effectively be used to support dogs with cruciate injuries. In some cases, surgery is definitely required and rehab is important.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand
Lately, perhaps because the weather is warm, I’ve encountered a lot of people during our walks asking me about Alex’s brace, and I am more than happy to stop for a couple of minutes and chat with them. Do you know what I found surprising? Every single pet parent that asked me about Alex’s brace told me the same thing, “I thought that the only option for an ACL injury was surgery,” to what I responded, “No, that is not the only option”. By the way, I do not get any monetary compensation from WoundWear Inc., what I like to do is talk about the products I buy for Alex and Bella and give you my poin of view, a consumer’s point of view.
Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked:
What is your dog wearing? Is it a brace? Is she injured? Alex is wearing a brace…
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The knee joint can be vulnerable to injury in dogs just as it is in people because the bones are attached through soft tissues known as ligaments. I received a call a couple of weeks ago from a friend saying, “Kathleen, I was at the dog park with Lea and she cried out and pulled up lame. She won’t bear weight on it. What do you think is wrong?”
Since I’m not a vet, I’m not qualified to diagnose injuries but this particular one sounded to me like a ‘classic’ cruciate ligament tear or rupture. My friend didn’t want to pay after-hours vet prices on the weekend if he didn’t have to but equally didn’t want to wait to see a vet if her condition was serious or life-threatening.
I suggested that he rest Lea, keep her warm, dry and comfortable and go to the vet if there was an immediate change in her condition. Otherwise, if she still wasn’t weight-bearing on Monday, then a visit to their regular vet was warranted.
As it turned out, Lea’s condition didn’t change over the weekend and a visit to the vet confirmed a cruciate ligament tear. She’s now resting in the hope that the tear will heal itself.
In many cases, cruciate ligament injuries are partial tears and surgery isn’t required. In others, full rupture of the ligament may mean that surgical repair is required. Some dogs still need ongoing support for their legs regardless of whether the ligament was repaired surgically or not. Leg braces that are made from a cast of the dog’s leg work well in many cases.
I work on dogs with these injuries in my canine massage practice. Laser therapy helps to relieve the pain of the injury and support healing. Passive range of motion exercises assist in keeping the leg joints mobile, but without pressure on the knee joint. And hydrotherapy works wonders when the dog is ready for this type of more strenuous (but non-weight bearing) exercise!
Here’s a great video, courtesy of the folks at Vetstoria and YouTube about the symptoms and diagnosis of cruciate ligament ruptures.