Can A Dog Run With A Torn ACL?

We may receive commissions when you buy through links on our site. Read here.

Have you ever seen a dog walk with a torn ACL?

If so, you know it’s not pretty. A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), also known as cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), is a painful knee injury to dogs and can have devastating effects on the joint, depending on how severe it is.

The ACL provides stability to a dog’s knee, and it can tear as a result of trauma, your dog running too fast, landing from a jump, sudden twisting, or sudden stopping. If the tear is very severe, your fur friend may not be able to bend their leg at all.

While this can happen from trauma to playing too rough with another pet, it’s usually more common in larger breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc.

So Can Dogs Run With A Torn ACL?

A Dog with ACL Torn
Caption: A dog with a torn ACL

No. Dogs cannot run if they suffered a cruciate ligament tear, even if they are on some anti-inflammatory medication. The underlying problem is that the ligament is no longer holding their knee joint stable.

Even in instances where your dog’s leg can still be extended or straightened out, it usually means that it’s a partial tear or it isn’t severe, and they can probably walk around just fine.
And while it might look like they don’t have any pain when they walk, there’s probably damage going on to their joints that may lead to arthritis down the road. This painful and debilitating condition won’t reverse itself if you ignore it.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Dog’s ACL Tear?

First of all, dogs with ACL injuries will usually have some noticeable pain. They will sit abnormally, especially if the tear is severe, where it appears they’re holding their leg out to the side while sitting or favoring one leg over another while walking.

Besides limping, they may not be able to bend their leg or fully extend it and will start showing signs of lameness in one of their hind legs, unable to bear weight on the injured leg, knee appears swollen, and you can sometimes hear a clicking or popping sound when they walk.

What Are The Treatment Options For A Torn ACL in Dogs?

While there are things you can do at home to ease your dog’s pain, surgery is the better way to help them relieve the discomfort and start walking normally again. Plus, your vet will most likely recommend surgery for dogs with a torn ACL since it’s more effective.

However, in some instances, especially with smaller breeds, the tear may not be severe enough to need surgery. In this case, alternative treatments like using a knee brace, massage, acupuncture, supplements, and physical therapy, may be suggested to reduce inflammation in the joint and help promote healing on their own.

How Much Does A Dog ACL Surgery Cost?

A cruciate ligament rupture almost always requires surgery, and most dog owners will want to know how much ACL surgery costs. If you add in other fees, like post-op recovery and rehabilitation, this procedure can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000!

So, make sure you have pet medical insurance that will cover the costs of surgeries and treatments. Otherwise, your furry friend’s ACL tears may lead to a financial burden for you.

How Long Will it Take For My Dog To Recover From ACL Surgery?

Dog with ACL Injury
Caption: A dog with ACL injury

In most cases, dogs can start bearing weight again after two to three weeks. But exercises are usually not recommended until at least six weeks after surgical treatment to prevent any unintentional damage to the joint while it’s recovering.

And it typically takes most dogs around four months to gain full mobility in their operated leg. However, some cases are more severe than others, meaning recovery time could take longer. In fact, according to Dr. James St. Clair from TopDog Health, full recovery will take up to 6 months.

Tips To Help Your Dog Recover From A Torn ACL

1. Support Your Dog’s Hind Legs With A Lift Harness.

After surgery, you may need to buy your injured dog a lift harness to help them get around. That is to prevent your pup from bearing too much weight on the operated leg, hence quicker recovery.

2. Get A Comfortable Bed For Your Dog.

You may want to consider purchasing an orthopedic dog bed for your pooch that’s easy on their joints as well since they won’t be able to do much walking and will be spending most of their time laying down.

3. Avoid Letting Your Dog Jump Up To Places Or Furniture.

It’s imperative not to put too much stress on your furry friend’s knee while it’s still healing. Otherwise, it can cause complications, and there is a chance the ligament will rupture again. So please don’t encourage them to jump up to places or furniture.

4. Put Your Dog On A Diet.

If your canine companion is obese, you’ll need to consult your vet to help them lose some weight. Overweight dogs have a much harder time recovering from ACL surgery since it adds more stress to their knees and joints, which can, in turn, slow down their recovery time.

5. Keep Your Dog From Walking Around Too Much.

You would also want to use gates to limit your four-legged friend from roaming around the house and keep them off slippery floors to prevent further injury, and make sure no other cables or toys are lying around that they could trip over while recovering.

6. Invest In A Ramp.

It’s also a good idea to buy your dog a ramp to help them get into the car. Look for the one that has a non-slip surface and ensure to supervise your dog when they’re using the ramp to make sure it’s safe and that they don’t try and hop up or jump off of it.

7. Take Your Dog Swimming.

Taking your dog swimming is also a great idea since it won’t put much stress on their knees, thanks to the buoyancy of the water. Plus, it’s a great way to help your four-legged friend maintain muscle tone and keep them mentally stimulated.

Read More: 10 Best Dog Life Jackets for Swimming

8. Monitor Your Dog.

Lastly, watch your dog closely to ensure that everything is going well during the recovery process and have them monitored by your veterinarian to ensure that the surgical treatment was successful and there were no complications.

9. Give Your Dog Rest!

Remember, the most critical part of recovery is giving your dog rest just as much as they need. And don’t hesitate to call your trusted veterinarian if you’re concerned about anything related to your dog’s recovery after surgery!


A torn ACL or CCL is a knee injury in which one of the two ligaments connecting a dog’s femur and tibia tears. As a result, their legs will not be able to extend fully, causing your dog to limp through walking and inhibiting their ability to run.

Although surgery isn’t always needed, it is an effective treatment. In fact, Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies stated that dogs who undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) would 90-95% be able to exercise or play like normal after, based on what the veterinary industry reports.