Did Your Boston Terrier Tear Its ACL? What You Need To Know

Is your Boston Terrier limping? If so, this may be a sign that they have torn their ACL.

ACL tears are prevalent in dogs, with around 1 to 2 percent of dogs developing a torn ACL at some point in their life.

Boston Terrier Torn ACL

In this article, we will review the symptoms and treatment of torn ACLs in Boston Terriers.

Boston Terrier Torn ACL: Here’s What You Need To Know

Torn ACL, also known as torn cranial cruciate ligament, is an extremely common knee injury diagnosed in Boston Terriers. This injury causes pain and limping in one of the back legs.

Your veterinarian can typically diagnose an ACL tear by feeling your dog’s knee and taking x-rays of the knee. The best treatment for a torn ACL is surgery, and there are several surgical options available.

Read More10 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues

Boston Terrier Torn ACL

What Is An ACL In Dogs?

The ACL is the anterior cruciate ligament which is a ligament within the knee that acts to stabilize the knee from front to back. In dogs, this ligament is referred to as the CCL or the cranial cruciate ligament. (See video below)

This ligament runs from the femur bone in the upper leg to the lower leg’s tibia bone. The primary function of the ACL is to keep the tibia and femur in normal alignment.

Note: The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the most important stabilizers inside the canine knee (stifle) joint, the middle joint in the back leg. In humans, the CCL is called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) (source).

Dog ACL Explanation Video

Vet Explaining ACL In Dogs

In this video, Dr. Bauer, DVM, DACVS discusses what the ACL is in dogs and shows a model of what the ACL looks like.

How Can You Tell If Your Boston Terrier’s Acl Is Torn? 

When the ACL tears, the symptoms usually start suddenly. A pet owner will usually report that their dog was running or jumping, then suddenly yelped and began limping on one back leg. 

Often, your Boston Terrier will not be able to put any weight on one of the back legs, or they may put minimal weight on the back leg.

Here is a list of symptoms that you may notice if your Boston tears its ACL:

  • Limping On One Of The Back Legs
  • Pain
  • Knee Swelling
  • Not Putting Any Weight On One Of The Legs
  • Less Muscle Mass In One Leg
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty Jumping
  • Stiffness

How Does A Dog Act With A Torn ACL?

A dog with a torn ACL will act sensitively and as if in pain on one of its back legs. You will likely notice them limping on one of the back legs, and they will be reluctant to put any weight on the affected leg.

Dogs with torn ACLs may also act tired or lethargic if they are in pain from their injury.

Boston Terrier Torn ACL

How Common Are Torn ACLs In Boston Terriers?

Torn ACLs are one of the most common leg injuries in dogs. It is estimated that around 1 to 2 percent of dogs will develop a torn ACL at some point in their life. Because of this, torn ACLs in Boston Terriers are relatively common.

It seems that most dogs are diagnosed around seven years of age, and female dogs seem to be at a higher risk for developing a torn ACL.

Torn ACLs may be most common in middle-aged female Boston Terriers.

ACL tears may occur more commonly in dogs that have luxating patellas. Boston Terriers are predisposed to developing luxating patella. Therefore, Bostons with a luxating patella may be at a higher risk for a torn cranial cruciate ligament (torn ACL).

Read more about Luxating Patella with videos here on the Boston Terrier Society, Luxating Patella In Boston Terrier With Statistics.

What Dog Breeds Are Predisposed To Torn Acls?

A study done by veterinary researchers from the Royal Veterinary College identified the most common dog breeds that developed torn ACLs.

They found that the most common dog breeds affected by torn ACLs included:

Boston Terrier ACL

What Should You Do If Your Boston Terrier Tears Its ACL?

If you think your Boston has torn their ACL, the first step is to contact your veterinarian. Many different injuries can cause limping, and only a veterinarian will accurately diagnose and treat a torn ACL.

When you are waiting on your veterinary appointment, be sure that you keep your pup rested and don’t allow them to run or jump, as this could make the injury worse.

Your veterinarian will likely be able to diagnose a torn ACL on physical examination. Usually, they will also recommend x-rays of the knee at this initial visit as well.

Do you want to save 25% at your next veterinarian visit? Check out Pet Assure. This health savings plan can save you 25% with no pre-existing conditions exclusions. See if your vet participates and if this will save you on patella surgery pricing here at Pet Assure.

Treatment For Torn ACLs In Boston Terriers

There are two main options when addressing torn ACLs in Boston Terriers. The best option is the surgical correction of the injury. 

Another option is the torn ACL’s medical management, which can lead to chronic pain and arthritis in the knee.

#1 – Surgical Correction

#2 – Medical Management

Torn ACL

How Can A Veterinarian Fix My Boston’s Torn ACL?

Surgery is the best treatment for a torn ACL in Boston Terriers. 

Surgical correction of the injury leads to the best long-term outcomes; although, the knee will likely never be 100 percent again. Long-term outcomes are better if surgery is performed soon after diagnosis.

There are several different surgical options for torn ACLs in Boston Terriers (see video below). Your veterinarian will be able to decide and recommend the surgery that they think will be best for your dog.

The three main surgical options for torn ACLs in dogs are:

The lateral suture technique is often only used in small breed dogs because it tends to have a higher rate of failure than the other two techniques, especially in large breed dogs. This technique is often the least expensive surgical option.

TPLO and TTA are major surgeries that are usually only performed by a veterinary surgery specialist.

Video Explaining Three Different Surgical Options With Model

Video Explaining ACL Surgeries In Dogs

In this video, the three surgical techniques, Lateral Suture, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement, are discussed and demonstrated with a model.

What Does It Cost To Have My Vet Fix My Boston Terriers Torn ACL?

The average cost for surgery to repair a torn ACL is between $1000 to $4000, depending on the surgical technique performed.

According to Embrace Pet Insurance, the lateral suture technique is one of the least expensive surgical options, runs between $1000 to $2000.

A TPLO or TTA will be a more expensive surgery and will usually cost $2000 to $4000 on average.

Do you want a quote on Pet Insurance? Get a pet insurance quote from Embrace Pet Insurance by clicking here, Pet Insurance Quote Embrace.

Can My Boston Terrier Recover From A Torn ACL Without Surgery?

It is possible that a Boston Terrier can recover from a torn ACL without surgery. Medical management consists of strict cage rest for around eight weeks and treatment with dog-specific pain medication.

The ACL will not repair itself with this method, but rather, the knee will develop scar tissue and become more stable with time. If you choose to go this route for a torn ACL, there will be an extremely high likelihood of chronic pain and arthritis in that knee.

Choosing The Right Food For A Boston - Vets Perspective

How Do I Care For A Boston With A Torn ACL?

If your Boston Terrier has been diagnosed with a torn ACL, it is best to follow your veterinarian’s guidance on home care. They will likely recommend exercise restrictions, including no running, jumping, or stairs.

Recovery care may require you to crate rest your dog while they are healing. Also, your dog will likely need dog-specific pain medication to reduce the pain associated with the injury.

I recommend that dogs with knee injuries start a daily joint supplement and fatty acid to slow down arthritis development in the knee.

How Long Will It Take My Boston Terrier To Recover From A Torn ACL? 

It will take 2 to 4 months for your Boston Terrier to recover from a torn ACL. After surgery, your veterinarian will recommend that your dog rest for 8 to 12 weeks.

It is essential to follow your veterinarian’s guidance on the rest and recovery process because if your dog has not rested properly, the surgical treatment could fail.

What Happens If A Torn ACL Goes Untreated In My Dog?

If you do not have surgery done on the torn ACL soon after diagnosis, irreversible scar tissue and arthritis will develop. For the best long-term outcome, early surgical treatment of the injury will help.

The ACL acts to stabilize the knee, so if it is not repaired, the knee will remain unstable, predisposing your dog to develop severe and chronic pain and arthritis. 

Is There A Brace I Can Buy For My Dog’s Torn ACL?

It is not generally recommended to use a brace for a dog’s torn ACL. There has not been much research done to show the effectiveness of knee braces for dogs.

Besides, dog anatomy may not be as conducive to a knee brace as human anatomy. Most veterinarians will not recommend knee braces.

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A Few Final Thoughts

An ACL tear is a very common injury in Boston Terriers. Your Boston may have a torn ACL if you notice sudden limping on one of the back legs.

The treatment of choice for this type of injury is surgical repair as this leads to the best long-term outcome for your dog. Medical therapy can be attempted but will likely lead to chronic, irreversible pain and arthritis.

While your dog’s knee will likely never be the same again after a knee injury, early and aggressive veterinary care is key to the best long-term success. If you suspect your Boston has a torn ACL, I recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible.


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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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