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When to Euthanize Dog with Torn ACL? – Explained with Signs & Possible Surgeries

Dogs are active animals by nature, and they love to run and jump around a lot. Canines use their hind limbs to stand, sometimes during vigorous play, and they tend to injure themselves. One of the most common injuries is known as torn ACL.

What is a Torn ACL in Dogs?

A torn ACL or, we can say, Anterior Cruciate Ligament is an injury that causes hind-leg lameness in dogs. And talking about doggies’ hind limbs, knees are a part of it. ACL in canines is found between the femurs and the tibias. Femur and tibias are top and bottom bones in a dog’s hind legs.

The ACL is a ligament at their knee to help them move around, run, walk, and jump, due to which your dog’s ACLs are continuously under some coercion from both of their femurs and the tibias. Your pup can twist their knee suddenly due to running and sudden change in direction or tear them due to excessive weight or hyperextension.

You might ask Can a dog walk with a torn ACL? Torn ACL among dogs causes acute or chronic pain at an extreme level. They will be unable to run, jump or even walk with this injury and be in excessive pain.

Symptoms of ACL Injury in Dogs

ACL Or CCL is an injury that causes fluctuation of the joints, resulting in discomfort, pain, and the following typical symptoms:

  • Sitting abnormally
  • Lameness & stiffness in both rear legs
  • Knee thickening & swelling
  • Sound of clicking in the knee while walking
  • Limping and discomfort while walking
  • Having major sprains
  • Pained expressions
  • Less diet and lethargy

How ACL Tear in Dogs Impacts?

Due to torn ACL, dogs will be unable to bear weight on their injured leg. A torn ACL, or in general known as CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) in dogs, leads to the development of scar tissue, making the joint rigid. It causes them slight immobility, and they would engage in less active activities and play due to the injury.

They might suffer from excessive pain daily depending upon how deep their limb is torn. They might even have a nice sleep leaving them grumpy and lethargic all day long. Large dogs can also develop arthritis due to torn ACL.

They will eat less or not even eat without your assistance or pressure. It can be because they might be feeling devastating pain, hurting them so badly. At some point, they might even stop eating and whine in pain. They might also lose excess weight, show lameness, and become highly lethargic and inactive.

Can a Dog Live with a Torn ACL?

It depends on how the ACL has been torn in the dogs. If they have a minor injury, they can get treated at home without any surgical procedures. But first, you must consult your vet regarding the extent of the injury in your dog.

Sometimes detecting a torn ACL in dogs is hectic. You might not even know when it happened, leading to more injuries and deepening the torn muscle. It can gradually be torned due to the running and jumping by your puppy. While some injuries are generally minor sprains, if not treated in time, they will lead to the tearing of their limbs.

The dog becomes inactive and lethargic due to bearing immense pain, leading to weight gain. Then this weight gain eventually affects your dog’s spine curvature. When dogs are intense patients of torn ACL, surgery is needed as soon as possible. After the surgery, it usually takes a minimum of three weeks for your pup to start standing up and walking again.

If you do not want surgery, you can go for some pain relief medications and treat it symptomatically with a consultation from your vet. But, it can be that your dog may have to dwell on pain killers and other symptom-alleviating medications for the rest of its lifetime.

Surgery Types for Torn ACL in Dogs

Common surgery techniques performed for the treatment of dog torn ACL are:

1. Lateral Suture Technique or Extracapsular Repair (Outside the Joint):

The lateral Suture Technique is the most common surgery performed for Dog ACL surgery. It is a suitable method that stabilizes the knee on the outside of the joint by using a single fiber plastic line called a mono-filament. This surgical technique for repairing torn ACL in dogs is suggested for dogs less than 50 lbs. This suture limits cranial translation of the tibia compared to the femur and sustains a normal range of motion in the knee.

2. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)

It is a technique that alters the dynamics of the knee of the dog. The bone is being cut accordingly, and the tibial plateau is pivoted, where the femur and the tibia articulate so that the femur can no longer slide backward. It gives support to their knee and stabilizes them.

3. Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

This surgery is done by cutting the top of the shin bone (the tibia), moving it ahead, and stabilizing it in its unique position. Although, Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy(TPLO) equips an improved long-term radiographic and operational result than TTA. It takes almost 2 weeks for your dog to get healed and walk properly after TTA surgical treatment.

4. Prolotherapy

This technique involves injecting some medicated drug, an irritant in the affected collateral ligament or tendons with ACL. Though it takes time, it still repairs the torn ACL for the time being.

When to Put a Dog Down with Torn ACL?

This is the most common question arises in a dog’s owner’s mind if their doggo suffers from torn ACL. It is better to take some advice from your vet than make any sudden decision yourself.

There can be enormous reasons to put down a dog with a torn ACL:

  • ACL surgery in dogs is at a much higher cost than expected. It can go up to $10,000 and more. Some dog owners can’t afford such pricey ACL surgery, leading them to drop the surgery.
  • The torn ACL surgery success rate is only about 85% to 90%. Though this rate is only for healthy pups, that makes it five times riskier than it is. If your canine is old or has any previous ailments, you should approach your veterinarian regarding this matter.
  • As with any surgery that involves anesthesia, there is always the potential for complications.

You can go for prolotherapy or proliferation therapy, usually for big dogs with torn ACLs. It is done by injecting a vexation into the simulated cruciate ligament to aid in the therapeutic process and help lessen the pain.

You can also go for euthanization for a dog with torn ACL. But before any further proceeding, always check for real symptoms and ailments to ensure that your puppy is really in pain due to this injury.

If the surgery success rate is low, then with the advice of your veterinarian, you can go for euthanasia. It is better to go through this process than to see your beloved pup in pain and resentment.

Euthanasia works while injecting sodium pentobarbital into the affected area. It is a type of drug that will cause your dog to relinquish consciousness and painlessly stop the heart.

Do not grieve too much just think that you made the humane decision so that your dog no longer has to suffer. At least it had a painless death than a painful life. During this time, wish for peace and comfort for your dog and live with sweet memories of your furry friend.


Putting down your dog with torn ACL is a difficult decision and should only be taken with advice from a professional vet. Euthanasia is not always an option right after finding the injury and should never be your priority. Some various methods and Dog torn ACL treatments can be done even at home. You need to look for various strategies and advice from the vet before making any final decision.