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Dog ACL Injury Saga Continues

cocker spaniel

The long and winding road and issues of a dog having an ACL injury continue.

For those familiar, or for those who are reading this and have a dog who has been diagnosed with an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, here’s our story and what we’ve blogged thus far: Really good references here:

March of 2013: ACL partial tear diagnosis from doing a jump for the ball at the park

April of 2013:Cold laser therapy sessions at the local pet rehab center

May of 2013: Custom orthotic ACL stifle brace to wear for 4-6 months with modified activity (read: no jumping)

Early August of 2013: 90 days the brace and all seemed well

August 2, 2013: A 90-day update of the ACL saga

Mid August of 2013: Limp – pop – stagger.  My dog injured the same leg but worse. Surgery is required. A partial tear became a full tear.

All has been awesome since surgery took place on August 21, 2013. Recovery was great, as you can read about here, and surgery was curative. He no longer limps!  We have our little ball playing ruffian back.

Until Tuesday, My 27th, that is. After a routine ball playing session at the park, we noticed Dexter had a bit of a hobble gait, an almost limp. Hard to describe without seeing it type thing. But it was not normal. It was intermittent and worse at night and especially after rising from a lying down or seated position.


Thoughts that ran through my head: Maybe it’s a muscle pull…or a sprain….or a strain. Please do NOT let it be the ACL in the right rear leg.

Statistically, about 40 percent to 50 percent of dogs with one cranial cruciate ligament rupture will rupture the ligament on the other rear leg within two years of the first rupture. Considering that factor, with our tail between our legs, we visited the board certified veterinarian who performed Dexter’s extracapsular repair today.


The Testing

Of course, Dexter traipsed in with the happy disposition it always has, and no sign of lameness nor injury was present.

Murphy’s law, right?

After a discussion with the vet (who is a doll by the way and really knows his stuff), the physical exam began.

Manipulations, twisting, turning, and palpating occurred and therein came the diagnosis.


The News

The left leg ACL (operated on leg) is fine, and all is kosher with that. Whew.

The right leg not so much. The vet was unable to reproduce a drawer sign. This is a good thing. For dogs with a torn/ruptured ACL, the drawer sign is tell-tale and present. And yes, I know more about the anatomy of a dog stifle than I ever thought I would, even with my background in medicine.

It could be a partial tear that is very very early on or a muscle pull or sprain. So we might be looking at a full tear coming or not. I did tell the vet about Dexter’s brother experiencing the same thing and needing the exact same surgery. I am told that there is a hereditary component to this, but that the only breed that they are 100 percent certain about it occurring in genetically is Newfoundlands. (you hearing that, Jen Costello of My Brown Newfies?)

Now What

Ten days of Metacam – I am not a fan of anti-inflammatories but will do ten days to get through this. Limited walking, no major ball playing sessions and see if he heels. In fact, the major ball playing and jump up for a ball days are over. A jump for a ball is what precipitated the first ACL tear and now “whatever” is happening. Granted, we will play and run, but those high jump “I believe I can fly” days are over.

We get a recheck on the 12th and proceed from there. Oh and losing 2 pounds wouldn’t hurt for both the dog and me (for me, maybe a bit more, like 10). We are also going to start on a different joint supplement than the one we have been using.

So that’s the ACL Days of Our Lives and the latest in our saga.

My heart beats dog, I just wish his knees felt better.

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.


  1. MJ Watt says

    How do you get Dex to understand “no jumping”? Sadie jumps to the moon and back and loves it. We are worried sick one day she’ll be limping.

    Dex, you take care – NO MORE JUMPING!!

  2. juanita Duell says

    Carol, you know very well what I went through with DeeDee who tore her ACL originally in April of 2013. I opted for a more homeopathic treatment with cold laser therapy and homeopathic meds. Sadly, she tore her other ACL in December of 2013.

    Back to the same regime…cold laser therapy and homeopathic meds.

    For your information, she wasn’t a ball-chasing jumper, but more of a sedate little lady. Her only jumping was on/off our bed which stopped after the first incident. All she was doing when the second tear occurred was going out potty in our back yard and made a mis-step coming back up our deck.

    Unfortunately, we lost her to IMHA last March so she died still in treatment for her ACL tear. I wish you the best for healing of Dexter. I know you will take the very best care of him.


    • Carol Bryant says

      Thanks so much for the comments. I am with you on this for sure, Juanita. The slightest thing can set them off. Paws crossed it heals. Ugh.

  3. slimdoggy says

    Poor bug…having been through many (too many) ACL injuries with our dogs, I know they are a pain. Good luck. Just kick back and relax if you can Dex.

  4. Jen says

    I was holding my breath reading this the whole time!

    Sherman’s ball playing days were over a long time ago although we still play catch, he just has to be sitting!

    I’m so sorry about Dex but hoping he will beat the odds, even if he doesn’t, he recovered so well from his first one that I know he will recover just as well if this one blows! I will be keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t though!

    Sherman and I are determined to beat the odds of his other knee going! At least that is what I keep telling myself over and over again! Sherman was 6 when he tore his right one and Leroy will be 6 in 27 days so the thought is always in my head, although Leroy is just structurally different than Sherman and not related so I’m hoping that will be in our favor with him.
    All I have is hope Carol 🙂

    Hugs to you and Dex and hit us up if you need to talk!

    • Carol Bryant says

      I have had you in my thoughts and prayers. Funny (not ha ha funny but ironic) how I think of you when I get news like this. You and Jada Rade. ACL peeps to the core.

  5. 2 Brown Dawgs says

    Oh too bad. I hope Dexter gets well without the need for further surgery. As for a genetic component, I think it is more about the dog’s rear structure maybe and not enough rear angulation. Whatever causes it, it is too bad you have to revisit for the other leg.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Yeah that’s what he was telling us. We are going on a watch and wait course right now since the limp is not as bad/nearly nonexistent today – but time will tell. You are a valuable resource, Jana. TY!

  6. Sebastien says

    My second ACL was found to be torn/strained a week before my surgery on my first ACL. But since Dexter has a great mama, I know that he will be well cared for and recover well. Besides…we cockers have to be able to chase our tennis or soccer balls!! Get well soon Dexter!!

    • Carol Bryant says

      I think “chase ball” is part of the Cocker breed standard, isn’t it, Sebastien? I hope S is doing well and thanks for the kind words!

  7. carma Poodale says

    Oh wow, those sound extremely painful. I sure hope Dex doesn’t have to go through all that again. Makes me glad Jenny Sue was never a jumper. I am happy I really am not neither.
    Swift healing to Dexter

    • Carol Bryant says

      It is no fun and I want to ban jumping. Rolls my eyes. Hugs to you, favorite Poodale ever.

  8. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says

    Oh Goodness! I sure hope Dexter doesn’t have to go through another ACL surgery!!
    Callie gave me a scare 2 weeks ago with her left knee (she had the surgery early 2013 on the right knee). Vet said, no…just some inflammation from the arthritis…but also said no running or jumping for her either for 3 full weeks; and on-leash only in the back yard (play area). Her weight is good, so hopefully that will help us ward off problems with left knee.

    • Carol Bryant says

      I hope Callie is okay now – and that she continues to be okay. I just ordered a new product after attending BlogPawsChat tonight, so paws crossed on all going well. TY for stopping by!

  9. Stacey says

    What a hard thing to tell a dog … no jumping. I do not envy you this job. I’m not sure I could do that with Prince … short of constant kennel which we would both hate. I hope you are able to figure out something and it is all good news from here.

  10. Jodi says

    I feel for you on this Carol, I really do!

    We are 10 weeks post ACL surgery on Sampson’s left leg. Every time I watch him shake when he tries to potty I freak out wondering about that other leg. The surgeon we used says he’s not worried about it. That typically it is younger dogs that tear both, but he believes much has to do with the dog’s genetics. I still worry. Of course it does not help that he is taking his time recovering.

    I will send good thoughts your way and paws crossed.

  11. M. K. Clinton says

    Poor Dexter! I am so sorry that you are having problems. I have had two knee surgeries on my left knee, so I feel your pain. There is nothing fun about the snap, crackle, and pop of an injured knee. I’d love to say that mine worked miracles, but that’s not the case. It did improve my basic issue, but there won’t be any running in my future. I know that between you and your veterinarian Dexter will get the most loving care available. We are sending positive thoughts your way!

  12. Tiffany & The Cattle Aussies says

    Oh Dex! Heel quick little dude! While I’m still researching the uses, background, and benefits of turmeric, maybe that’s something to look into for Dexter? It’s supposed to help with inflammation (I’m mainly considering this for Bella as she gets a little older, and to help keep her comfortable, supple, and agile as she ages), but it also is super healthy and beneficial in lots of other ways too.

  13. Lizzy says

    I hope Dexter is doing well! My doggie tore her acl 2 weeks ago 🙁 I didn’t want to put her through surgery so I ended up getting her an a-trac brace from Woundwear. It has been wonderful!! She no longer limps but still has to take it easy on the walking. Thanks for sharing your story about Dex!

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