Can X-rays Detect a Torn ACL in Dogs?

by Victoria Lee Blackstone
    X-rays help show joint and bone placement, aiding in the diagnosis of an ACL tear.

    X-rays help show joint and bone placement, aiding in the diagnosis of an ACL tear.

    Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

    The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is actually the cranial, or anterior, cruciate ligament in dogs. One of the most common causes of rear leg lameness in dogs, according to Michigan Veterinary Specialists, the ligament stabilizes the rear knee joint, or stifle. To diagnose a torn ligament, a veterinarian conducts a number of tests, including X-rays.

    Diagnostic Testing for the ACL

    Diagnosing an ACL rupture begins with a thorough examination and evaluation of your dog’s gait. ACL tears typically occur after a traumatic or overexertion injury, so your veterinarian may ask about recent behavior or accidents. Next, an X-ray looks at the joint structure and bone placement. An X-ray will not show damaged ligaments but a change in bone positioning shows that the ligaments may not be stabilizing the joint correctly. The X-ray also helps rule out other conditions, such as arthritis. The veterinarian then manipulates the joint to check for stabilization using two tests -- the drawer test and the tibial compression test -- to help confirm a tear.

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    About the Author

    Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist who propagates heirloom and native plants for her nursery. She has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, plant care sheets and magazine and newspaper articles. Blackstone studied botany and microbiology at Clemson University and is a former University of Georgia Extension Master Gardener Coordinator.

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