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Dog Limping After ACL Surgery: Should I Be Worried?

Dog Limping After ACL

If your dog has required ACL surgery and is still limping afterwards, you may be worried if the surgery has been effective. 

ACL surgery is common in dogs, and limping post-operation is even more so. Dogs can’t immediately put their weight on the operated limb, so it is natural for them to bear weight on their other legs—and that means limping. It’s normal for this to continue for several weeks after surgery.

But how long should the limping last after dog cruciate ligament surgery? There are milestones post-surgery that you need to monitor, and keeping up with regular vet appointments is the best way to monitor your dog’s recovery. 

Some dogs may continue to limp after surgery, and in this case, ensuring your dog isn’t in ongoing pain is the priority. Physical therapy and medical management can help ensure your dog makes a full recovery from cruciate surgery.

Read on to help you ease your worries! 

Is It Normal for My Dog to Limp after ACL Surgery?

Most dogs will limp after cruciate ligament surgery, and that is to be expected. It will take a few weeks before your dog can start to bear weight properly on the affected limb. 

Post-operative care and rehabilitation will help you deal with your dog’s limping and recovery time. Some of the things you could do are to create a peaceful environment for your dog to rest and recover, follow the vet’s prescriptions for medicine and painkillers, as well as monitor your dog.

You’ll also need to prevent further injuries from happening while your dog is recovering. Something that dog owners may forget is how slippery the floor is. Therefore, have appropriate rugs or mats under your dog’s cage to prevent them from slipping when they go in and out of their safe haven.

By doing these things (and avoiding others), you can guarantee that your dog’s limping will heal sooner than expected. Nevertheless, remember that your dog still underwent surgery that requires months for a full recovery. 

How Long Should You Expect Your Dog to Limp After Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

After cruciate ligament surgery or ACL or CCL, most dogs will usually limp for two weeks or less. Some dogs luckily lose their limp as early as 24 hours after surgery, but this is less common.

That said, it takes at least 8 weeks for dogs to recover from ACL surgery. So, don’t expect them to be fully athletic in 2 weeks’ time. Keeping an eye on your dog’s week by week recovery after ACL surgery and ensuring they hit the right milestones is critical. 

In the first 2 weeks, even though your dog is limping, you should take them on short and controlled leash walks for 10 to 20 minutes. When they need to pass urine, that’s a good opportunity to take them out for a short walk. After all, it is highly advisable for dogs to be kept indoors and monitored closely in the first few days out of the vet.

Now, if your dog continues to limp after 2 weeks, you may want to get them checked by the vet again. Some common reasons for this continued limping may be because of overdoing activities, surgical site infection (which is rare), implant-associated pain (which is very rare), or meniscal tear (which requires another surgery). 

A meniscal tear commonly occurs alongside an ACL tear, and this is typically mended at the same time as the cruciate ligament surgery. However, it’s possible for a dog to injure themselves after surgery is complete. 

What Affects the Recovery Time for Dogs After Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

A number of factors affect the recovery time for dogs after cruciate ligament surgery. This includes the severity of the condition, the dog breed (including weight and size), and the type of surgery, as well as the post-operative care that the vet recommends.

  • Severity of the condition – Of course, the severity of the tear or injury will determine how long the recovery time is for your furry friend. Small, minor, or partial tears that have been detected early will naturally heal faster than complete or major tears that have been left to worsen for some time.
  • Dog breed – Larger dog breeds are more prone to getting ACL injury. The recovery time for large dog breeds is also longer than for smaller ones, primarily because of their weight. Weight plays a big role in how severe the injury is because larger dogs put more strain on the knee joint, leading to greater wear and tear. 
  • Type of surgery – With ECR, TTA, and MMP procedures, you can expect recovery to take around 8 weeks. TPLO surgery usually allows your dog to bear weight sooner than Lateral Suture surgery. Expect full recovery from TPLO surgery in 12 to 16 weeks’ time, while recovery from Lateral Suture surgery is 16 weeks onwards. 

These three main factors are interconnected, so there is no exact number of days that can determine how long your furry friend is fully recovered from ACL. 

On top of those, how religiously you follow the post-op care will also play a part in the recovery time of your dog. So, make sure to follow your vet’s prescription meds and pain killers for your pal.

Will My Dog Always Limp After Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

Most dogs regain their full motion after cruciate ligament surgery, but of course, not immediately. And, truth be told, some dogs will continue to have a limited range of motion due to the early onset of arthritis.

Will My Dog Regain Full Motion after Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

Yes, most dogs will regain full motion in their legs after cruciate ligament surgery. How long it takes to regain full range of motion will depend on the severity of the injury and the breed of dog you have. 

For most dogs, passive range of motion exercises (PROM exercises) can be done 2 to 3 days after surgery. This has to be consulted with your vet to be sure.

PROM exercises involve flexing and extending the knee, ankle, and hip joints of the leg that underwent surgery. 15 to 10 movements are recommended to be done 2 or 3 times daily. You have to gauge the comfortable range of motion. Do not exert your dog at all as this will affect their recovery time.

Lameness or losing your dog’s leg function completely is more likely to happen if they don’t undergo surgery. So, even with arthritis, dogs will still be able to play with their owners after full recovery albeit some of them with limited motion. 

If you are worried about your pal developing arthritis and losing full range of motion, look into weight management and an Omega-3-rich diet.

How to Reduce Limping in Dogs after Cruciate Ligament Surgery

To reduce limping in dogs after ACL surgery, you must follow the vet’s post-op care instructions carefully.

Apart from the painkillers and meds, after-surgery care will usually involve rest, physical therapy, and exercise reintegration.

  • Rest – Your dog will need to get plenty of rest to recover from the surgery. By allowing them to sleep and relax for a few days, you can reduce their limping. Rest will also prevent your dog from re-injuring themselves.
  • Physical Therapy – This refers to PROM exercises, which need to be done 2 to 3 times a day in the first 2 weeks. In the third and fourth week, you can reduce this to twice a fortnight (because you’ll be increasing physical activities or exercises instead).
  • Exercise Reintegration Schedule – This means slowly introducing physical activities. In the first few days, do not allow them to run and jump. Depending on when the vet will allow it, introduce longer walks, sit to stand exercises, or even 3-legged standing exercises.

When is Limping a Cause for Concern after Cruciate Ligament Surgery?

It is normal for dogs to limp after cruciate ligament surgery, but it’s important to monitor your dog. If limping persists after 2 weeks, consult your vet. However, if limping is coupled with other signs of discomfort, like vomiting, contact a vet urgently.

With correct medication and post-op care, your dog should stop limping as early as 1 day post-surgery. However, it is also normal for limping to continue at most 2 weeks post-op.

If your dog continues to limp a week after the surgery and you see signs of discomfort, monitor them closely. If the surgical site is painful to the touch or is alarmingly red and swelling, this may be an infection that requires attention. Vomiting post-surgery is also a concern that requires a call to your vet.

Limping coupled with swelling or discharge at the surgical site is another cause of concern. This could mean infection at the site, which requires the attention of the vet.

In some cases, it can be expected that dogs will still have some mobility challenges. Dogs who have developed more severe osteoarthritis could continue to show limping and lameness for a month or more. Arthritis will also be painful for your furry friend, so if this is the case, the arthritis will need treating in addition to the ligament injury. 

Another complication is a meniscal tear, which is a tear in the cartilage within the knees. This also requires another surgery if not detected prior to cruciate surgery. Having said that, good vet surgeons should perform an arthrotomy to check for meniscal tears and resolve the problem during the same procedure. 

Related Questions

Can a Dog Tear the Same Cruciate Ligament Twice?

Yes, it is possible for dogs to tear the same cruciate ligament twice. It could be a re-injury caused by movement or trauma or by natural deterioration. Surgery to correct the conformation of the knee, such as TPLO or TTA surgery, helps minimise this possibility. 

Why Is Your Dog’s Knee So Prone to Injury?

Dogs’ knees are prone to injury due to restricted range of motion. As a hinge, the knee joins only move back and forth. However, when they turn when playing, they can twist the knees, especially when jumping and landing, which can lead to injury. Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to this injury than others.


This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health.