ACL injuries most likely occur in dogs that fit one of two descriptions. The dog is athletic and the ligament snaps when an awkward force is placed on the knee, such as jumping for a Frisbee. Or, the dog is older or overweight and the ligament tears with a more casual movement such as walking down stairs or jumping up on the bed. The latter injury is due to chronic forces which have weakened the joint over time. We find that many of these knees will have some degree of cartilage damage, similar to what is seen in humans.
Most torn ACL cases in humans do occur in athletes. There are several procedures that can be done surgically to get people back on their feet, but even with excellent rehabilitation programs, most human athletes are out of commission for 10-12 months. There are various methods used to surgically repair these knees in our canine patients as well, but the age, size and activity of the dog plays a major role in the decision. Regardless of the method used for correction, there is at least a 6-8 week period of restricted activity to allow for healing, and another 6-8 weeks in which activity is slowly introduced and gradually increased back to normal. Many dogs will benefit from post-op swimming, along with cold laser therapy.