Achilles Tendon Rupture in Dogs

Achilles tendon rupture is an injury that occurs in the tendons that help your dog bend and flex his hind legs. A rupture or tear in this group of tendons can be either partial or complete. Surgery is usually necessary to help the ruptured tendon heal, but this injury usually carries a good prognosis. Read on to learn more about Achilles tendon rupture in dogs.

Your Dog's Achilles Tendon and What It Does

A dog's Achilles tendon is actually a group of five tendons that run down the backs of his hind legs. These tendons help your dog bend his hind knees and flex his hind ankles. They also help him move his toes and upper legs.

Causes of Achilles Tendon Rupture in Dogs

Rupture of one or more of these tendons can occur if your dog sustains an injury to the area. The most common cause of Achilles tendon rupture is a fall, though puncture wounds can also partially or completely rupture the tendons in the backs of the hind legs. Laceration of the tendons can cause rupture, often complete rupture.

Achilles tendon rupture can occur suddenly, due to an injury, or slowly over time, especially in working or athletic dogs. Large breeds are more prone to this kind of injury, as are more active dogs, and dogs older than five years of age. Doberman Pinschers seem especially vulnerable to this type of injury. Achilles tendon rupture can, however, affect dogs of any size or breed. 

Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture in Dogs

Your dog's symptoms will depend on whether the tendon rupture is partial, affecting only some of the five tendons involved, or complete, affecting all five of the tendons. A dog with a partial rupture will still be able to walk, but will seem to be crouching in the rear. He will also seem to stand on tiptoe with the affected leg or legs.

Complete rupture of the canine Achilles tendon group leads to more severe symptoms. If this happens, your dog will walk around with his ankle or ankles on the ground, rather than just his paw, as dogs normally do. In both cases, inflammation and pain occur in the injured area.

Diagnosing and Treating Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs

Your vet will be able to diagnose your dog's injury with a physical exam. X-rays and ultrasounds can help your vet determine the extent of the injury.

Surgery often depends on the severity of the tendon rupture. Splinting the affected limb can help very minor cases of tendon rupture to heal without surgery. In most cases, however, surgery is necessary to repair the damaged tendon. You'll need to minimize your dog's activity both before and after the surgery. He'll need to wear a cast for about eight weeks, and a firm, supportive bandage for an additional two weeks.

If you think your dog has a ruptured Achilles tendon, seek treatment immediately. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the worse the injury becomes. If scar tissue forms in the tendon, it will be harder to correct surgically.