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The Achilles tendon, also known as common calcaneal tendon is a tough band of fibrous tissue that is the aggregate of those structures to the heel bone or calcaneus. It is made up of tendons from five muscles of the hindlimb. These are the superficial digital flexor tendon, the gastrocnemius tendon, and combined tendon of the gracilis, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris muscles.

Achilles Tendon Injuries in dogs can be degenerative or traumatic and can be complete or partial. Traumatic issues include tears, strains and accidents. Degenerative issues include hereditary predispositions that are associated with particular breeds.

Dogs affected by this are primarily from the large sporting and working breeds and are usually 5 years of age and older. The Doberman pinscher and Labrador retrievers seem to be overrepresented in this condition, but it can occur in any dog or cat, no matter what age or breed.

An Achilles tendon injury is extremely serious. If your dog has hurt himself suddenly or stops using his leg, take him to his veterinarian for an evaluation.

Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs

The signs of an injury to the Achilles’ tendon can vary. Many animals will be lame on that limb with a variable amount of swelling around the injury. An animal with a complete rupture of the Achilles’ tendon will walk “flat-footed” or “dropped” (a plantigrade stance). The toes can be curled downward (crab claw stance) like the animal is trying to grip the floor.

The reason that they can have this “crab claw” stance is that all the components except the superficial digital flexor tendon have ruptured or been cut. The full weight and strain are then applied onto the superficial digital flexor tendon which pulls the digits into flexion.


Rupture of the Achilles tendon in dogs can usually be diagnosed based on clinical signs and a physical exam performed by your veterinarian. Radiographs may also be used, and ultrasounds can help distinguish between partial and complete tears.

Treatment of Achilles Tendon Injuries in Dogs

Surgical repair is necessary, but fraught with complications. When surgery for Achilles tendon injuries is considered, there are many possible complications. The joint must be stabilized for six weeks or more to allow the surgically repaired tendon to heal. The hock joint is very difficult to stabilize and many repairs fail, requiring multiple, costly surgical procedures. However, regenerative therapies are effective and can prevent the need for expensive surgical techniques.

Surgical treatment is followed by immobilization and then rehabilitation. Method of immobilization used will depend on the location and severity of the injury, the age, size, and temperament of the pet. The home environment, other co-existing injuries, and financial status are considered. Immobilization may last up to 12 weeks, though there is a move towards making this shorter


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