Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page article about the prevalence of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in dogs. You won't find it online unless you're a subscriber, but it's worth finding a copy to read it, especially if you're unfamiliar with the problem or thought it only affected human athletes.
Written by Kevin Helliker, the article reports that the high rate of ACL tears is mystifying to veterinarians. Could it be the prevalence of obesity in dogs? A fat dog jumping on and off the sofa is putting a lot of pressure on his joints. And active dogs, unless they're well conditioned, are just as much at risk, especially if they're jumping and twisting to catch a flying disc. Cats are prone to ACL tears as well, especially if they're overweight.
How do you know if your pet is overweight? Sight and touch are your best guides. Look down at your dog or cat. Does she have a waist? If she looks more like a sausage, she's overweight. Put your hands on her body, thumbs lining up on the spine and the fingers splayed to the sides. Can you feel the ribs or are they buried under a layer of fat? Hint: you should be able to feel them but not see them.
If your dog or cat is overweight or has suffered an ACL tear or other injury, talk to your veterinarian about rehab. A good practitioner can put together a program that will help your pet lose weight and become better conditioned. Look for more about pet rehab in next week's Creature Comforts.