Learn how to care for cruciate ligament tears at home so you can speed up your pup’s recovery process.
It’s incredibly common for dogs to have some sort of cruciate ligament damage during their lifetime. As their caretaker, there’s nothing more you want to do than help them feel better. Taking proper care of cruciate ligament tears at home is key. Even if your dog is eligible for cruciate ligament surgery, there’s going to be a lengthy recovery period. Here’s how to provide the best care you can to help ensure your dog is up and running again soon!
What is a cruciate ligament tear?
Cruciate ligaments are found in your dogs’ knees. Each knee has two cruciate ligaments which cross inside the joint. The ligament in front is called the cranial cruciate ligament, which is shortened to CCL. Often, pet parents and vets will refer to this cruciate ligament as the ‘ACL’ or ‘anterior cruciate ligament’ since that’s what it is called in humans.
The CCL can weaken over time due to weight, activity, bone structure, and genetics. When that ligament is damaged or tears, it causes inflammation in the joint as well as unstable movement, which is extremely uncomfortable.
Diagnosing the injury
Pet parents with dogs in pain may be worried that their pup’s cruciate ligament has been injured. Diagnosing this type of injury on your own is difficult, but there are some warning signs to watch out for:
- Swelling around the knee joint
- Limping or refusing to walk on the bad leg
- Sitting in new positions, specifically with the legs out to the side
- Stiffness when standing or walking, in one leg or more
- Clicking noises when the knee joints move
If it seems like your pet may be suffering from a CCL injury, it’s time to see a vet and ensure a proper diagnosis.
Ligaments cannot heal themselves, but weak or damaged CCLs can usually be managed so that they don’t tear further. Full cruciate ligament tears may be treated without surgery, especially in smaller dogs, but outcomes are generally better if the dog undergoes an operation. There are several types of operations that can be done, and your vet will guide you through the best option for your dog’s size, age, and activity level. After a surgical repair, your dog will need plenty of time to heal.
At-home care tips for CCL injuries
Below are a few ways you can treat your pup at home to facilitate fast recovery from surgery or injury. Remember to implement these tips only with the approval of your vet. Not all CCL injuries are the same, so these tips may not be the right fit for your dog’s issues.
1. Start physical rehab
Many vets are beginning to offer canine physical therapy to help dogs recover from injuries. While you could take your dog to a facility for treatment, there are some ways to start this process at home!
Simple tools like assistive lifts, ramps, footwear, and specialty toys can make it possible to work on muscle strength and rehab at home.
Make sure not to start physical rehab sooner than your vet recommends if your dog has had surgery. Most dogs must do little-to-no physical activity for six weeks following CCL surgery as the area needs to heal. From there, you can begin helping your dog build back muscle mass.
2. Prevent further injury
If you know that your dog is at-risk for cruciate ligament tears due to his breed or past injuries, take time to prevent further damage.
Does your dog tend to jump off high things, roughhouse too much, or eat too many snacks? Remember that obesity and high-impact activities can contribute to CCL tears. By controlling your pet’s diet and preventing risky playtime as much as possible, you can reduce his risk of severe injury.
3. Feed a supportive diet
Studies show that a diet rich in joint-supportive ingredients may help keep your dog’s joints healthy. Along with certain supplements, a joint-supportive diet can reduce the inflammation associated with minor tears and help with some of the symptoms of arthritis. Click here for a list of vet-recommended supplements for mobility.
You cannot always prevent ligament injuries from happening to your dog, but you can do your part to take care of him afterward. Follow this advice to care for your canine companion so that he can get back to playing pain-free as soon as possible!