As any pet owner knows, watching our dogs struggle with injury or pain is one of the worst feelings in the world. Canine injuries that affect the stifle (knee) joint can be especially troubling because they limit a dog’s ability to run, jump, and play. One of the most common injuries to this area include ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears, known in dogs as CCL (canine cruciate ligament) tears.
If your pup has suffered a CCL tear, don’t panic! There are several different treatment options that can ease your pet’s pain and promote healing and long-term comfort.
Causes & Symptoms of a Torn Canine ACL
Damage to your dog’s ligaments can be caused by several factors, including obesity, strenuous activity, and age. In addition, some breeds are more susceptible than others to ACL tears, such as large breeds like Labrador Retrievers, St. Bernards, and Rottweilers. Depending on the severity of the tear, symptoms might range from limping or difficulty rising and standing to complete lameness and inability to bear weight on the affected leg. If you suspect damage to your pet’s ligaments, we always recommend a visit to your veterinarian, who would likely perform a physical evaluation, including “drawer test” (manipulation of the knee joint) to assess the stability of the joint, and take X-rays to confirm a diagnosis.
Your Dog’s ACL Surgery Alternatives & Surgical Treatment Options
When it comes to any serious injury, it is best to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best treatment option. In extreme cases, your vet might recommend surgery for the best chance at long-term recovery. However, in many cases, a dog may not be a good candidate for surgery due to health issues or advanced age. In addition, surgery to repair a torn ACL can be cost prohibitive, ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 per knee. Fortunately, when surgery is not the best option, there are some non-invasive treatment plans that may work for you. Joint supplements (fish oil, turmeric, and glucosamine), diet and exercise changes, acupuncture, cold laser therapy, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, pain medication, and dog stifle braces are all options that can help heal your pup.
How Does a Canine Stifle Brace Work?
A dog stifle brace, or dog knee brace, is a simple, non-invasive treatment for canine ACL tears. In dogs, the stifle joint is the equivalent of the human knee, which is stabilized by ligaments. When those ligaments are damaged or torn, the joint becomes unstable and can cause pain, muscle deterioration, and lameness. A dog stifle brace, such as Ortho Dog’s Cruciate Care Dog Knee Brace, is designed to immobilize the joint to promote stabilization and allow the joint to heal. Limiting the flexion and extension of the knee joint allows the scar tissue to form a callus over the tear for healing.
Stabilizing the stifle joint serves several purposes. First, it reduces pain and inflammation, making your furry friend much more comfortable. Second, it helps balance a dog’s back and hips, which can prevent damage to other limbs and joints. Unfortunately, more than half of dogs who suffer a CCL tear damage their other leg at some point in the future. A stifle brace prevents the dog from putting undue stress on their healthy leg, thus decreasing the chances of damage to that leg.
Easy to put on, braces are non-rigid and come in multiple sizes to fit comfortably on a range of medium, and large and x-large breed dogs. They can be worn during the day as needed and removed at night. All of Ortho Dog’s braces are waterproof so they’re designed to be worn while your dog is swimming or undergoing hydrotherapy. The length of time you use the brace depends on the extent of the injury to your pet’s leg, your pet’s age, and other factors. In some cases, 8–10 weeks might allow for sufficient healing, while in others, you might choose long-term usage of the brace when your dog is exercising to keep your dog comfortable and happy for the rest of their lives.
Other Uses for a Dog Stifle Brace
In addition to helping with CCL tears, a knee brace can be used to give support to dogs with arthritis, knee sprains, or strains. Your veterinarian may recommend a knee brace if your dog shows signs of fatigue or limping. A stifle brace for dogs can be combined with medication, physical therapy, and other treatment options to serve as an affordable and effective alternative to surgery. The brace, however, can also help provide therapeutic support to protect the joint and promote healing after a dog undergoes surgery.
If your pet is suffering from an injury that impacts their stifle joint, consult with your veterinarian and determine whether a stifle brace might be the best choice for pain-free living.