Torn ACL in Dogs When to Put Down?

Putting a dog down due to torn ACL is not an easy decision for many dog owners. The heartbreak of such a decision sometimes forces pet owners to choose the path of least resistance and opted for euthanasia.

When to put a dog down with torn ACL

When to put a dog down with torn ACL

There are two main reasons why your veterinarian might recommend euthanizing your dog with a torn ACL: the high cost of surgery and the likelihood of a poor quality of life following surgery.

It is important to know that a dog with a torn ACL will not necessarily have a high probability of success following surgery. If you are not willing to devote the necessary care and attention to caring for your pet after surgery, then you may want to consider euthanizing your pet.

How much pain is a dog in with a torn ACL?

Torn ACL in dogs is commonly treated with surgery and rehabilitation. However, if the dog can’t do any of these activities, your vet may recommend euthanasia.

Here are the signs that your dog may be suffering from torn ACL:

  • Inability to walk normally
  • Inability to bear weight on the knee
  • Inability to jump or run
  • Limping
  • A swelled knee joint or knee cap (if there’s the fluid present in the joint)
  • Biting or chewing at the injured area (this may indicate pain)

Can a dog live comfortably with a torn ACL?

ACL surgery in dogs has a high success rate of 90% on average and your dog should return to normal activity within 6-8 weeks of the surgery.

Dogs with torn ACL have difficulty holding up their weight on the injured leg and struggle to use stairs or jump onto furniture. They will also experience pain when walking or moving around, which makes it uncomfortable for them to go on walks or play with other dogs. The condition will worsen over time if not treated so it is important that your veterinarian examine your pet as soon as possible if you suspect an ACL tear.

In some cases, surgery can succeed in repairing the torn ACL, but if not, euthanasia may be recommended due to the pain and mobility problems associated with a torn ACL without successful surgery.

Because it can be difficult to predict how well a dog will recover from a torn ACL, veterinarians use several factors to make this determination. These factors include age and overall health of the dog, severity of the tear, and location of the tear on the ligament (the closer to the joint, the more likely recovery will be successful), and whether there are other injuries that complicate recovery.

How long can a dog go with a torn ACL?

The primary benefit of this type of surgery is that it allows your pet to return to normal function within just a few weeks after the operation. While many dogs will be walking on three legs for a period of time following their surgery, most can be expected to resume their regular activity within two months.

What happens if a torn ACL is not repaired?

An ACL injury can be devastating because most dogs depend on their knees for almost everything they do.

If a dog is not treated for an ACL injury and it does not improve with rest, then signs of chronic ACL deficiency may develop:

  • Dogs with acute injury will have pain and swelling and might be reluctant to bend their knees fully. There may be a clunking feeling when they walk on hard surfaces, such as concrete.
  • Their gait may be perfectly normal but they may have trouble landing properly after a jump because of instability in the knee joint. They also may have difficulty getting up from a lying-down position because of the limp that develops when they bear weight on their legs.
  • Dogs with chronic injury often become more reluctant to walk on slippery floors or stairs because they can no longer trust their knees to hold them up.

The dog’s knee is unstable and the joint is painful. If surgery is not performed, the dog will continue to be in pain, and it may become lame. The dog may not be able to use its leg properly, as it may collapse when weight is put on the leg and it may drag the leg. Surgery should be done to fix the problem because it helps relieve pain and restores normal use of the leg.

How long does it take for a dog’s ACL to heal without surgery?

Small dogs, weighing less than 30 pounds, with minor injuries may recover completely within three months with rest and rehabilitation exercises prescribed by your vet. Dogs with more severe injuries require surgery to repair their ACLs.

Your veterinarian may prescribe weight control for your dog as well as medication for pain relief if your dog has a torn ACL. Your vet may also recommend that you put your dog on a special diet or exercise program if he is overweight.

How much does ACL surgery cost for a dog?

The surgery costs $1,000-$5,000 and the dog will require 6-8 weeks of rest before attempting to put any weight on the leg.

How long does it take for a dog to recover after ACL surgery?

The recovery time for a torn ACL surgery can be anywhere from three months up to one year, depending on the severity of the injury and how well it is treated. The more severe cases tend to take much longer to heal properly because they require more time in surgery and rehabilitation.

My dog has torn ACL and I have no money

Torn ACLs and other knee injuries are common in dogs. But treatment can be costly, especially for pet owners who have no pet insurance or savings set aside specifically for their dog.

Fortunately, there are some options available to help you pay for your dog’s care. Here’s where to look for financial assistance for dogs with torn ACL, whether it requires surgery or not.


The first place to start is by calling your local humane society (the ASPCA website provides contact information by state). Many local chapters offer financial assistance for critical animal care when funding is available. If your area doesn’t have a chapter, call your veterinarian and ask if he or she knows of any local groups that provide financial assistance for pet care.


Many veterinarians offer CareCredit financing in their offices. CareCredit is similar to a credit card with a line of credit that can be used specifically for medical expenses in the veterinarian’s office. The benefit of CareCredit is that it’s easy to apply, there are no prepayment penalties and many veterinary offices offer interest-free financing options for 12 months or longer.

Asking Your Veterinarian

Many veterinary hospitals will also offer payment plans or other financing options to help you care for your pet. If you’re having financial difficulty paying for your dog’s ACL surgery, it doesn’t hurt to ask your veterinarian if they can help you find some options. Most veterinarians want what’s best for both you and your pet and would rather see you financially struggle than not provide the necessary treatment for your pet.

The Pet Fund

This is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to pet owners who cannot afford veterinary treatment.

Red Rover

This is an organization that provides grants to pet owners who are in need of financial assistance. A grant from Red Rover can be applied for at any time. The average grant amount awarded is $500, although there is no limit to how much can be requested. Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll want to get your application in early (especially since the application process itself can take some time).

Conclusion of torn ACL in dogs

When a dog has a torn ACL, it’s very important to let the dog rest. If you keep letting your dog run around and play with other dogs, it will make the condition worse. The best thing to do is get your dog to a veterinarian immediately so they can diagnose the issue.

After the vet gives you an estimate of how much it will cost for surgery or other treatments, then you’ll have an idea of what your options are. You can either choose not to get treatment at all and hope that your pet heals on their own (which won’t happen), or go ahead with the surgery and hope that it works.

The dog’s leg will always be weak and the joint may eventually become arthritic. A dog that has had a previous ACL surgery is also at higher risk for rupture of the other stifle (knee) ligament, so it’s important to keep an eye on both legs for signs of injury.

If you feel that you cannot afford the surgery for your pet’s torn ACL or are unable to care for your dog after surgery, you may find that it is in their best interest to put them down.

All dogs are different and have different needs, so it is up to your veterinarian and you to decide if the best option is to put your dog down or continue to fight for a better life for him.

If you feel uncomfortable doing so, contact your local humane society or shelter and ask if they can help make arrangements with a veterinarian who will do so.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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