What Dog Breeds are Prone to ACL Injuries?

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Dog Health

While physical trauma can cause ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears in dogs, some breeds are more at risk of ACL-related injuries.

All canines can tear their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), especially overweight dogs. Age, arthritis, previous related injuries, and other related factors all play a role in putting dogs at risk of CCL damage. Additionally, the characteristics of specific dog breeds make them more susceptible to ACL injuries.

Knowing whether or not your dog is at risk of a specific injury due to its breed can be a step ahead towards prevention. Let’s look at seven ACL-prone breeds and how you can prevent CCL tears.

Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise is a small dog breed with a fluffy white coat and black eyes. It’s a playful and active canine that can experience hip dysplasia and the luxating patella–a slipped kneecap. A Bichon Frise with hip dysplasia will often experience lameness and limp as it walks. Meanwhile, a luxating patella can cause ligament tears, inflammation, and cartilage damage, among other things.

Since Bichon Frise dogs are highly active and can tire quickly, they should have regular walks and exercise to strengthen their bones and muscles. Walk your Bichon Frise at least twice a day to keep their joints limber and flexible.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are strong, active, and incredibly loyal dogs. Similar to the Bichon Frise, German Shepherds are also more likely to have hip dysplasia. This is because these breeds have a large frame and can weigh up to 40 kilograms. Once they get hip dysplasia, these dogs can become inactive, limp, and feel pain as they struggle to move.

Owners should monitor the weight of their German Shepherds to reduce the risk for hip dysplasia and ACL tears. For example, male German Shepherds should weigh from 30 to 40 kilograms, compared to 22 to 30 kilograms for females.

Sticking to a diet will help you keep track of your dog’s weight. German Shepherds should ideally consume up to two cups of dry dog food twice a day. This can vary based on age, size, activeness, and other factors related to your pet’s health. You should also let your pet exercise for at least 40 minutes a day. Stick to this plan, and you’ll minimize the chances of ACL-related injuries.

Labrador Retriever

The loveable Labrador Retriever is a medium-sized canine, with males growing up to 24 inches tall. Most Labradors also have big builds, making them appear bigger than they actually are.

Labrador Retrievers can be service and guide dogs, family pets, or search and rescue dogs. However, they’re one of the breeds with a high risk for CCL tears due to extra weight gain, which increases pressure on the CCL.

Maintaining the weight of labrador retrievers is key in preventing unnecessary pressure on their legs. Most male labradors should weigh 29 to 36 kilograms, while females should only be 25 to 32 kilograms. It’s important to engage in physical activities with your labrador for at least an hour every day, whether it’s as simple as taking long walks or playing fetch outside. More importantly, give your canine the right amount of food to sustain its active lifestyle.


Newfoundlands are furry gentle giants. However, they can get injured more easily despite their build. One study from the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) discovered that Newfies have a gene related to CCL tears.

Fortunately, you can help a Newfie avoid a torn CCL by monitoring its weight and encouraging daily physical activity. Male Newfoundlands should weigh 68 kilograms at most, while females should ideally weigh up to 54 kilograms.


Rottweilers are medium-large dogs known for their strength and ferocity. They love being around people and are extremely loyal and affectionate, making them excellent family pets.

However, like most medium-large canines with a massive build, Rottweilers are also prone to ACL injuries. This breed is three to seven times more likely to injure its CCL, according to research done by UFAW.

Knowing how a torn CCL can affect your pet is important in order to keep the condition from worsening. Symptoms of a ruptured CCL include:

  • Lameness
  • Difficulty bearing weight
  • A swollen knee

Saint Bernard

Saint Bernards are often used as search and rescue dogs. They have a calm and friendly temperament that makes them great family dogs.

Saint Bernards are massive dogs. Males can weigh from 63 to 81 kilograms, while females can weigh between 54 and 63 kilograms. This is why they are also more at risk of hip dysplasia. Symptoms vary depending on a Saint Bernard’s age, which can include:

  • Lameness in one or both legs
  • Bunny-like hopping
  • Difficulty standing, jumping, or climbing

To help reduce a Saint Bernard’s risk for hip dysplasia, make sure your canine eats a suitable, healthy diet. Also, avoid intense or long exercises until your dog is of age and has fully-developed muscles and bones.

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are strong medium-sized canines. These dogs can be service or police dogs but are mainly bred to be herding dogs for livestock.

The agile and energetic nature of Australian Shepherds also makes them ideal family pets. This breed also excels at flyball, a sport played by two teams of four dogs. Canines playing flyball jump four hurdles, then touch a box pedal to catch a ball. Once they’ve caught the ball, dogs go over the four hurdles to get to the finish line. However, their athleticism also puts them at risk of different CCL injuries.

A recently published study found that Australian Shepherds are at least twice as likely to have CCL tears compared to other breeds like Labrador retrievers. This increased risk can be due to the frame, shape, and tail of the Australian Shepherd. Physical activities and tools to develop better core strength could help an Australian Shepherd avoid a CCL injury. Your pet can start strengthening its core through balance exercises or wobble boards.

Keep Your Canine Healthy & Active

The canine breeds mentioned are just some of the many breeds that are more predisposed to getting ACL injuries. This is why identifying the symptoms of these injuries immediately is important to get your dog the best treatment as soon as possible. These conditions shouldn’t stop them from living a healthy life, as long as you treat them properly. Hence, identifying symptoms and helping your pet avoid ACL ruptures is a must. Monitor your canine’s weight, exercise with them, and put them on a balanced diet for a lower risk of CCL injuries.

Want to learn more about proper canine care and preventing CCL tears in dogs? Get helpful information and tips from the TPLOInfo blog today.

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