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Treatment option torn knee ligament

Q: My 8-year-old, 25-pound (healthy weight) cocker spaniel tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee. He takes two supplements for his joints: Dasuquin and fish oil. What do you think about treating his torn ACL with crate rest rather than surgery?

A: The anterior cruciate ligament, often called the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) in dogs, helps stabilize the knee. Partial tears and complete ruptures of the CrCL are the most common cause of hind leg lameness in dogs.

The most prominent clinical sign is lameness, which may range from mild, intermittent limping to holding the leg up because the knee is so painful and unstable that it cannot bear any weight. CrCL disease is most prevalent in large-breed, overweight dogs older than four years of age. Obesity quadruples the risk of CrCL rupture.

Conservative treatment is effective at resolving lameness within four months in up to 86 percent of dogs weighing less than 33 pounds. Conservative treatment requires crate rest, restricted activity, weight control, anti-inflammatory pain medication and joint supplements like those you give your dog.

On the other hand, fewer than 20 percent of dogs over 33 pounds respond to conservative therapy. These dogs require surgical stabilization of the knee. Though it seems reasonable to try conservative therapy before deciding whether to sign your dog up for surgery.

Editor’s Note: Here are five expensive pet treatments that may demonstrate the need for a comprehensive pet insurance plan.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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