Why are cruciate ligament injuries in dogs so common?

Like humans, a dog may experience severe pressure on its knee joint when it engages in physical activity such as running or jumping. If your dog experiences a sudden twist while engaging in this activity it can cause partial or complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament which results in severe pain and lameness.

Dogs that have unfortunately been involved in a car accident may also have injury to its ACL. The extreme twisting of the leg or pressure on the knee joint may result in a rupture of the cruciate ligament.

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL) are fibrous tissues which form bands in the knee. ACLs in dogs are responsible for preventing the tibia and femur ends from moving across each other in a to and fro motion.

ACL Surgery on your dog may be recommended if your dog is in pain or does not have use of its knee joint.

Dr. Lima performing an ACL

What can de done?

Our canine cruciate ligament repair first begins with an Orthopedic consultation with Dr. Lima and Dr. Bacon. The purpose of this examination is to determine the dog’s knee motion and to meet with the pet owner. At Carleton Veterinary Services and Lanark Veterinary Clinic, it is our priority to ensure that pet owners fully understand all options available and the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

If surgical correction is needed for the ACL injury, Dr. Lima or Dr. Bacon discuss various techniques available. They prefer the Extra Articular Method. Owners are always informed on their first visit on what will happen before, during and post surgery.  A discussion on post-operative care includes information for pet owners regarding at home rehab that owners can administer to more in depth rehabilitation services.

Owners are always sent home with the articles about ACL injuries and care to help owners make informed and educated decisions about their dog’s healthcare.

What to Expect Pre- and Post-ACL Surgery

Here’s a quick guide to help owners better understand what to expect when they bring their dog in for ACL surgery.


Generally we ask that patients arrive at the clinic between 8 and 8:30 a.m. No food must be given to your pet after midnight the night before.

A surgical technician will greet you and your pet and answer any last minute questions or concerns. Patient is taken to our surgical pre-operative room. A small amount of blood is collected and analyzed. Pre-operative blood is very important as it allows us to ensure your pet is able to metabolize the anesthetic medications and that your pet is healthy enough to undergo surgery.

Intravenous catheter will be placed in a front leg of the patient.  Having IV access throughout surgery is highly important (in case of medical emergency IV access can save a patient’s life). The patient will also be given pain medication, antibiotics and IV fluids through the catheter. Warmed IV fluids help to maintain blood pressure, body temperature, provide a medium for us to balance electrolytes if needed, and flush the anesthetic medication out of their system for a faster recovery.

The surgical leg is shaved, induction takes place and the patient is moved from pre-op into our surgical suite.


The patient is maintained on oxygen and inhalant gas throughout surgery. Optimal body temperature is maintained with a warm water heating unit on the surgical table. The patient is hooked up to monitoring equipment to maintain vitals.  Surgical technicians are constantly using their skills to monitor the patient as well.  The limb is surgically prepped and the procedure begins.

Post Surgery

Patients remain in our hospital for two days post operation. During those two days of care, our staff monitors your pet to manage pain and ensure there are no infections. We will also begin some clinic rehabilitation along with icing of the affected area.

After these two days, the patient is returned home with home rehabilitation exercises. The owner returns their pet after two weeks for suture removal and review.  The rehabilitation program begins after this appointment with up to 12 scheduled rehab appointments. These may comprise of  four to six canine underwater treadmill treatments and four to six canine laser therapy treatments.

After the ACL Rehab is completed, your dog will have one final post-rehab visit with the surgeon.

The general timeframe for a complete ACL surgical and rehabilitation program is 12 weeks.