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Detecting & Treating Canine Achilles Tendon Ruptures

by Geoff Works |

Has your dog been having a hard time walking recently? Is your pet having a difficult time standing or moving around? If your dog is showing signs of pain whenever it tries to walk or run, it may have injured its Achilles tendon. Learn about the causes, signs, and treatments for ruptured Achilles tendon injuries in dogs in this blog.

What Is A Dog Achilles Tendon Injury?

The Achilles tendon of dogs is similar to that of humans. Also known as the common calcaneal tendon, this is made up of five muscle tissues for controlling the movement and balance of your dog. This group of muscles are in the hind limbs and also connects the muscles in the back of the calf to the heel bone.

Canine Achilles tendon injuries can either be traumatic or atraumatic. Traumatic injuries are due to blunt force trauma, laceration of the tendon itself, and sudden extensions or stretching. Meanwhile, atraumatic injuries are caused by degeneration, which is common among middle-aged large breeds. 

An Achilles tendon injury normally occurs when your pet suffers from external trauma or becomes weak over time due to repetitive damage. If your canine ruptures or tears its Achilles tendon, it may suffer from extreme pain and discomfort and can have difficulty in walking or experience lameness.

Common Causes of Canine Achilles Tendon Ruptures

There are three common ways that your dog can injure his Achilles tendon. Blunt force trauma, overstretching, and falls or accidents can tear this tendon. Lacerations or cuts on the hind legs can also cause this injury. Old age and repetitive injuries can also weaken this muscle group over time, causing the Achilles tendon to tear eventually.

The level of damage to your pet’s Achilles can also either be a partial or a complete tear. A complete rupture affects all the five tendons of the Achilles tendon, causing a dropped hock or lameness. A partial tear has tendons remaining intact and can still be used to move or stand.

Additionally, some dogs are more prone to being affected by this injury. Other than older dogs, larger canine breeds and active pets like Labradors and Dobermans are susceptible to Achilles tears. However, even if bigger dogs are more likely to get this injury, smaller dogs can still experience these tears.

Signs of a Dog Achilles Tendon Tear

Dogs that have an Achilles tendon tear can show different symptoms of pain, depending on the severity of the injury. These signs and symptoms can include the following: 


Lameness can make movements such as walking and standing difficult or almost impossible for your dog. This condition can change how your dog walks or stands, often dragging their feet behind them rather than walking normally.

Curled toes

If your pet has a damaged Achilles tendon, the muscles that support his other ligaments become unable to hold its position. Because of this, your dog may have its feet curling down like a claw of a crab. In the case where the rupture is more severe, your dog will lose all the support that its tendon provides, resulting in a flat foot or lowered stance.

Pain and Swelling

Another telltale sign that something may be wrong with your canine is the presence of pain and swelling in his affected legs. They might get uncomfortable, so much so that your dog might become reluctant to move around due to the pain from the swelling in the affected area. 

How Do You Diagnose An Injured Achilles Tendon in Dogs?

If you suspect that your dog may have injured or even torn its Achilles tendon, bring him to the vet as soon as possible to prevent long-term damage. Getting them to the doctor also ensures their swift and proper recovery from the condition and minimizes their pain.

The vet can start with a routine physical exam on your canine so they can give the proper diagnosis and treatment for your dog. The vet will then try to localize where the damage has occurred. This can be done using hands-on manipulation of your canine’s limbs to see which area is affected. Additionally, your vet may also request diagnostic imaging such as radiographs, X-rays, ultrasounds, and even an MRI scan for a better and more accurate diagnosis.

How do you Treat Canine Achilles Tendon Injuries?

Once your vet has a proper diagnosis for your pet’s condition, treatment can be given according to the extent of the Achilles tendon injury. Managing a broken tendon includes physical therapy management and surgery. Your vet will recommend the most viable option for your dog’s recovery, depending on your dog’s condition.


If surgery is the way to go for your canine’s condition, your dog’s surgeon will repair his torn Achilles by attaching healthy tendons together with sutures and grafts. Another option is to use temporary screws or fixators which will hold your pet’s limb until it has enough time to recover. Newer techniques like using healthy stem cells to manage Achilles tendon tears can also promote faster recovery.

Braces and Casts

After surgery, making sure that his injured limbs have enough time to recover is vital for proper recovery. Your vet will recommend bracing or putting a cast on the affected area to minimize the movement. The brace can also give the leg additional support. Your dog will then have to maintain complete rest during his recovery phase. This can often last from eight to twelve weeks.

Physical Therapy Exercises

After your pet has recovered from the surgery and following your vet’s recommended rest period, your dog should slowly ease into undergoing proper physical therapy. Make sure to consult with your vet so that he can recommend appropriate exercises for your dog. These exercises can help bring back the strength of their affected muscles and legs, allowing them to return to their usual self. Your dog may undergo another set of examinations assessing his condition as well.

You will most likely be given a set of physical therapy exercise routines that you and your dog can do at home. It’s important that you follow through as it is vital to your pet’s improvement and recovery process. 

To learn more about how you can help take care of your dog and treat other conditions or injuries, explore the Lick Sleeve blog today

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