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The Fur Mom Wants to Know How to Prevent ACL Injuries in Dogs

We have three herding mix dogs and each has a different level of activity…

Rodrigo loves to run around our property and if we took him to a field, he’d take off running around in glee.  Blue is the same way.  He has a little more energy (Rodrigo will wind down faster), but they both love to run and chase each other.

Wag Lifetime Joint Care for Dogs

People are surprised when I tell them that Rodrigo has arthritis.

Sydney, on the other hand, just like to chill with me.  She walks next to me, she sits with me inside and outside, she’s my baby.  But every now and then (at least 1x a day) she gets this crazy look in her eyes and then she’s off.  Running and running as fast as she can.  It’s great to see, because her arthritis pain is better managed, so she can run her buns off!

House for Dream House, Sydney, Rodrigo, Perfect Home for Dogs

Sydney and Rodrigo as puppies

All this running could easily lead to an ACL tear and after reading about other dog parents dealing with this recently, I started to wonder how to prevent ACL injuries in dogs.

Weight Management

The stress on our dogs ligaments can lead to ACL injuries, so we need to keep their weight in check.  I increased our dog walks from 2 miles to 3 miles.  I’ve switched the dog to a raw food diet, so they’re eating less kibble and I’ve cut back on the treats – choosing healthier choices like carrots and frozen, 100% pumpkin puree (it’s been warm).

Rodrigo and Blue are very fit and muscular; Sydney can stand to lose some weight and build muscle and I hope these walks and play sessions will help get her there soon.

What About Diet?

When I read about another dog parent dealing with an ACL injury, I thought to myself, “thank heavens we’re transitioning to raw.”  But then I second guessed myself and went to the Darwin’s Pets website (we get our raw food here), but there wasn’t anything about ACL injuries.  But I did read on Dawg Business that “a quality balanced diet is important for your dog’s overall health, as well as for maintaining the strength of his ligaments.”  So now I’m back to being happy that we’re transitioning to a raw food diet.

Accidents Happen

Even with this precautions, we’re still not 100% out of the woods.  Accidents happen all the time.  We live on 5 acres and the dogs love to chase each other and one of the can get injured in several ways.  We have Trupanion pet insurance and ACL injuries are covered and we recently learned that they changed our policy to cover hip dysplasia too (it used to be something you had to add on).

It just blows me away all that we have to juggle as dog parents.  Everyday I learn something new, because I’m a blogger.  If I hadn’t started my blog, I’d still be feeding our dogs a terrible kibble and they’e probably be sick and overweight right now.

Has your dog had an ACL injury?


  1. **sigh** I wish there was a way to prevent them! Poor Felix tore his ACL on Friday and now we’re in Conservative Management hell while waiting to see the specialist next week. (I’m officially the dog mom with a stroller and feeling dorky as heck.)

    I know that as Felix got a bit older, our vet recommended a glucosamine/chondriotin supplemtn for joint & ligament health and the Daddy (a health nut) would add quercetin to help fight inflammation, but let’s face it, Felix still tore his ACL jumping out of the garden. Apparently, he landed a little awkwardly, yelped and then refused to stand on the leg. YOUCH! We’re going to be talking a lot of ACL at Kol’s Notes over the next 6 months as we figure out how to heal poor Felix.

    • I’m so sorry, Jodi – that’s what sucks about it all, accidents happen. That’s the part that I just can’t get past. We do all that we can to protect our dogs and then this. I’ll be thinking of you and praying for the best.

  2. Kimberly-

    You are correct- accidents (and injuries) do happen. Sometimes they are simply out of our control! That said, we have learned a lot about prehab and nutrition as it relates to reducing the risk of these types of injuries. A lot of what we know now about the human body applies as well to the canine body.

    Some high-level points:

    1- Hydration is key for soft tissue pliability. Keep your pet well hydrated to keep their tissues ‘springy’.

    2- Inflammation is the enemy. Consider supplements if not a diet that naturally lower the bodies inflammatory responses- fish oil, turmeric to name 2 .

    3- Uni-directional exercise means an unbalanced muscular system. Having unbalanced muscles can markedly increase the chance of injury. We see this all the time in human athletes and the canine ortho community is finally picking up on this.

    Create a canine fitness routine that includes multi-plane, multi-directional, core and balance movements. These will force your dog to engage all of their muscles and will create a stronger and more balanced body– one that can better withstand the stress of unexpected and herky-jerky movements that can result in injury. We have written about alternative exercises on our site and will continue to publish more information on this very important topic.

    • Love this! Thank you so much! There are so many aspects of dog health, I’m just blown away. I love it, because the learning is fantastic, but wow, I’m just blown away. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Thanks for the info. I’ve dealt with an ACL injury before and I really wish first and foremost that I had pet insurance. But like you said, “accidents happen” and boy do they ever. My older dog had torn his ACL and I ended up getting him a brace from WoundWear. The surgery was extremely expensive and since he was older I worried that he wouldn’t make it through the surgery. So if all other prevention methods fail, and an accident happens to your dog, I would recommend exploring conservative management before jumping into surgery.

    • Thanks for sharing, Ryan – I’m kind of afraid to check to see how much the surgery costs. I just keep their weight down and keep them active and hope that something weird doesn’t happen. Thanks so much for adding your experience.

      • No problem! Happy to share. And I agree with you, don’t look into the cost of surgery if you don’t have to—It will only make you paranoid!

  4. Wow! Great timing to read this article. I just got back from taking Kayo to meet up with her pack for an extra walk since I took the day off. The trainer takes them to an off leash dog park and they run like the wind! Kayo’s pooped! But I never thought about torn ACLs. I’m always cautious because I know things can happen but that’s one that never crossed my mind. But the tips from you and SlimDoggy are good ones that I’ll keep in mind!

    • Don’t you just love SlimDoggy – they just added something amazing. Loved the idea of switching up the exercises to keep our dogs fully toned and flexible.

      • Agreed! Kayo’s so lucky I’m learning so much! ;0)

  5. I just wrote my fourth blog post about ACL tears because Dexter has a partial tear and an ilioposas muscle strain – and my last Cocker had a luxating patella grade 2.

    Prevention is hard – even the most athletic and well managed dogs have issues with them – especially the athletes.

    But keeping them active, on a supplement that works for your dog, and trying to prevent it best you can is key. Then again, I know a gal whose Cocker just tore her ACL stepping off a curb.

    Here is my latest post with backlinks to previous posts if you are interested:

    • Thanks for the link, Carol – I’ll check it out!

  6. A topic close to my heart these days! An ACL tear was my biggest fear with the Newfs. Almost every-time they would run out of the house I would picture it happening. Then it happened to Sherman back in December and I was devastated. I thought I had done all I could to prevent it. We went with conservative management due to another health issue Sherman was dealing with and it went well and after 6 months the knee was stable and the limping was gone…..until a few weeks ago when he tore the meniscus in the same knee. Now we’re trying to figure out what to do :( One step forward, two steps back.

  7. Some of the preventable risk factors for ACL injuries are:
    – obesity
    – early spay/neuter
    – endocrine dysfunction, such as hypothyroidism

    Diet, appropriate exercise and strong muscles also work to keep the ligaments in a good shape.

    (and thank you for the plug :-) )

    • Thanks, Jana – I love that I can always count on your insight.

  8. Don’t forget that anyone that exercises needs to stretch & warm up before going full speed.

    When Vlad’s allowed to run once he’s 2, he’ll be massaged before going out and warmed up before he’s let loose.

    Doesn’t hurt people, can’t hurt him either. Can it?

  9. People who say being a dog parent is easy clearly doesn’t own a dog. I’m a parent to two active dogs who love to play around. Injuries do happen that’s why I put their vet on speed dial.

    • So true, Aras


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