How Long Does It Take A Dog To Recover From A Torn ACL?

Written by Amber LaRock
Updated: November 30, 2022
Share on:

Advertisement


If your vet has just told you that your dog has a torn ACL, you might be wondering what type of recovery timeline lies ahead. An ACL injury in people often requires months of care and rehabilitation, and this will typically stand true for our canine friends as well. There are also multiple treatment options for a torn ACL in dogs, so it’s important to be aware of the details that come along with each recovery path.

We know how much you want to support your dog throughout their torn ACL recovery journey, so we want to offer you the tools needed to promote their healing each step of the way. Let’s dive into our detailed guide on how long it takes a dog to recover from a torn ACL, and make sure you have all the information needed to best help your canine companion!

Let’s get started!

Understanding a Torn ACL in Dogs

Before we dive into the details of what to expect during your dog’s torn ACL recovery, we should first offer a quick review on the injury your dog is experiencing. A torn ACL in humans is a dreaded injury due to how much support it offers the knee itself, and it is unfortunately no different for the dogs in our life. The ACL in dogs is actually referred to as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) instead, but its function is just as critical. The CCL in dogs offers essential support to the canine knee, so when it is injured in any way, it can have a devastating impact on the injured pup. A dog with a torn cranial cruciate ligament will not only experience severe pain due to their injury, but they will struggle to be the active dog they were before.

No matter how your dog manages to tear their CCL, many of them will struggle with a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. A torn ACL in dogs can cause pain that has them crying out and also results in limping, becoming lame, sitting uncomfortably, experiencing swelling of the knee, exercise avoidance, painful clicking of the limb, and even thickening of the knee joint over time. A CCL injury in dogs can range from a strain of the ligament to a complete rupture, so these symptoms will often vary from dog to dog. No matter how severe their injury is, a damaged CCL in dogs will have a major impact on their daily comfort.

Dog laying on side

A torn ACL in dogs can cause lameness, pain that has them crying out, limping, and exercise avoidance.

©iStock.com/OlyaSolodenko

My Dog Has a Torn ACL – What Happens Now?

If you have just been told that your dog has a torn CCL, then you are likely wondering what happens next. While every dog with a torn CCL will vary, having a general idea of what to expect can offer you some comfort as you move forward. The best way to help your dog heal from their torn CCL from the moment the injury occurs is by establishing a close relationship with your vet from the start. Not only will your vet be the one determining which treatment option is best for their initial CCL injury, but they will also be guiding you in your at home care for your dog. A torn CCL in dogs can take months to heal properly, so you will want to have someone in your corner offering you guidance each step of the way.

Once your vet determines the severity of your dog’s cranial cruciate ligament injury, they will help you determine whether or not surgery is right for your canine companion. CCL surgery in dogs is typically the most successful treatment plan, but your veterinary team will understand that there are multiple factors to consider. Your vet will likely discuss the different CCL surgery options, costs associated with CCL surgery, and non-surgical treatment options if you need to take a more conservative approach. No matter which treatment route you explore for your dog with a torn CCL, your vet will offer you detailed guidance on what comes next.

It’s also important to keep in mind that while some general practice vets will offer CCL surgery in their office, many will instead refer their patients to a veterinary orthopedic specialist for surgery. This means that you might be working with a new veterinarian while your dog undergoes their surgery and aftercare, but you can still keep your standard vet in the loop each step of the way.

How Long Will It Take My Dog to Recover From a Torn ACL?

As we mentioned above, there are many different treatment options for a torn CCL in dogs. Each CCL treatment plan comes with a unique recovery timeline, so let’s answer the question of how long it will take your dog to recover from a torn CCL based on their treatment approach.

Recovery Timeline From ACL Surgery in Dogs

If your dog with a torn CCL has surgery, then their recovery timeline will typically be more straightforward. Due to the fact that a CCL surgery in dogs offers a complete repair to the injury, then your dog is less likely to hit bumps in the road throughout their recovery. The most common CCL surgeries in dogs include the TPLO, the TTA, and the Lateral Suture Repair, each of which have a very high success rate. Your vet will also choose the best surgical approach based on your dog’s size and the details of their injury, and this helps to offer them the best chance at a smooth recovery.

Each CCL surgery in dogs will have a unique recovery timeline that your vet will discuss, but the average timeframe for a dog to regain function of the limb is within 8-12 weeks based on the severity of their initial injury. Most veterinary surgeons will request that your dog be strictly rested for 6 weeks after their surgery (only allowing short trips outside on a leash, no running, no unattended playtime, crate resting, and no jumping), but will then allow you to slowly introduce activity to their routine at the 6-week recovery mark. Some vets will prescribe physical therapy during this time period, but this will vary from dog to dog and come with specific guidance.

Most dogs are able put weight on the limb and move comfortably again around the 8–10-week mark, and they will typically go on to make a full recovery within 12-14 weeks. You can usually expect one to two follow up appointments throughout this 12–14-week period to make sure your pup is healing well, but every vet will vary on how they handle this. Overall, a two-to-four-month recovery period is the average timeline for a full recovery from a CCL surgery in dogs.

Dog recovering in crate

Keeping your dog on crate rest will help to restrict their activity and help with recovery.

©Mikhail Sedov/Shutterstock.com

Recovery Timeline From Torn ACL in Dogs Without Surgery

A dog certainly can recover from a torn CCL without surgery, but there are always more variables to consider. Due to the fact that the injury is not being manually corrected through a surgical procedure, this simply means you cannot know exactly how the injured CCL will respond to treatment. A dog that does not have surgery for their torn CCL can also develop complications such as damaging inflammation and bony growths in the area, and this can always complicate their recovery. Because of this, the average recovery timeline for a dog without CCL surgery will vary greatly.

If your dog does not have surgery for their torn CCL, then you can typically expect your veterinarian to utilize a few different treatment approaches. First, your vet will likely suggest that you begin strict exercise restrictions from the moment your dog strains or tears their CCL. This is essential for dogs that do not have surgery, as you do not want them to exacerbate their injury any further. Most vets will recommend strict rest for 6-8 weeks (only allowing short trips outside on a leash, no running, no unattended playtime, crate resting, and no jumping), and will then let you know when you can begin to introduce physical activity again. Once your vet has cleared your dog for light exercise again, they can offer you specific guidance based on their healing progress.

In addition to exercise restrictions for your dog with a torn CCL, your vet may also recommend the use of a CCL knee brace. A CCL knee brace for dogs will help to stabilize the knee while the ligament attempts to heal, as well as helping to relieve the pain associated with their injury. A dog knee brace is designed to take any unnecessary stress off the knee as your dog recovers, prevent further trauma to the area, and promote the formation of scar tissue that will eventually stabilize the area. Due to the fact that a knee brace for dogs is just a supportive treatment method, this means that the time spent in a brace will vary from dog to dog. While some dogs with a partial CCL tear may only need a knee brace for 2 months, others will require the help of a brace for 6 months.

Best For A Torn ACL
Ortocanis™ Original Knee Immobilizer for Dogs
  • Features a lateral aluminum splint
  • Works to stabilize the knee and reduce movement
  • Offers an ergonomic design
  • Constructed from neoprene to help keep dogs comfortable
  • Available in nine different sizes (mini to XXL) for both left and right legs
Check Amazon
ABMOS Dog Knee Brace, Knee Brace for Dogs ACL
  • Provides support and stability to knee joint
  • Helps relieve pain
  • Speeds up recovery
  • Brace has 10 spring side stabilizers
  • 7 sizes to choose from
Check Amazon
Ortocanis™ Original Dog Knee Brace
  • Improves stability and balance
  • Offers superior comfort
  • Helps to reduce pain caused by cruciate ligament injuries
  • Enables faster recovery
Check Amazon

And the last treatment option that your vet may recommend for your dog with a torn CCL is physical therapy. Healing from a CCL tear without surgery increases the risk of damaging inflammation and joint disease in the knee down the line, but this risk can be decreased with therapy in some cases. By offering your dog specific exercise and support that is designed to strengthen the area without further injury, your pup can often have a much better prognosis in the long run. Physical therapy for a torn CCL in dogs can include hydrotherapy, range of motion therapy, laser therapy, and even acupuncture.

Overall, the standard recovery timeline for a torn CCL in dogs without surgery will vary greatly based on the severity of their injury. Dogs with a partial CCL tear may only need the help of a brace for 8 weeks, while those with a more severe injury may need assistance for up to 6 months. It’s also important to realize that some dogs will never heal completely without surgery, so your dog may continue to struggle with chronic knee pain as a result. If this is the case for your dog, you can work with your vet to determine the best pain management plan moving forward. Many dogs can still live a full life as long as they have a quality pain management plan.

Laser therapy on a golden retriever

Laser therapy is one possible option your vet may suggest to help your dog recover from a torn CCL.

©iStock.com/Magnifical Productions

How Can I Help My Dog Recover From a Torn ACL?

As you can see, your dog’s cranial cruciate ligament recovery will vary based on the type of treatment they receive. The best way to support your dog with a torn CCL is by having them seen by your vet from the moment the injury occurs, and working with your vet team to find a treatment path that fits them best.

Being informed and hands-on in your dog’s CCL recovery journey is essential, so we encourage you to ask as many questions as possible from the moment your dog is diagnosed. Be sure to review the information we discussed above about torn CCL recovery times in dogs, and you can have a better idea of what lies ahead for your canine companion.

Up Next

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Olga Chetvergova

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?

X-Small
Small
Medium
Large
Xtra-Large

If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Kids
Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

Yes
No
How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?

Share on:
About the Author

Amber LaRock is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics surrounding pet health and behavior. Amber is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with 12 years of experience in the field, and she holds a degree in veterinary technology that she earned in 2015. A resident of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amber enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and taking care of her two cats.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Colorado State University, Available here: https://vetmedbiosci.colostate.edu/vth/services/orthopedic-medicine/canine-cruciate-ligament-injury
  2. VCA animal hospitals, Available here: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cruciate-ligament-rupture-in-dogs
  3. Ortho Dog, Available here: https://orthodog.com/article/dog-acl-tear-no-surgery