PetMeds®: Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in Dogs

 
Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

One of the biggest growing and expensive to treat orthopedic epidemics seen in dogs today is the increasing numbers of dogs (and to a much lesser extent of cats) diagnosed with either complete or partial anterior cruciate ligament tear of the stifle (or knee joint of an animal).  When I was in veterinary school back from 1987 through 1991, this was only a rare cause of lameness in dogs, mainly being seen in a few breeds particularly the Rottweiler.  However, both the incidence of this condition and the variety of breeds affected has grown tremendously in recent years. The history may include mild to moderate off and on hind leg lameness that has been sometimes present for weeks or months, or a sudden 3 legged lameness in those pets with a complete tear.

Varying degrees of stiffness can be seen after exercise or rest.  Many of these pets are often tested for Lyme disease, and in fact Lyme disease is often significantly overdiagnosed as a cause of lameness in dogs, as you read in a previous blog.  Most of these pets are middle aged larger breed dogs such as Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Akitas, and Rottweilers. However, any sized breed can be affected. While there is an intense search as to a genetic cause of this big increase in the incidence of this condition, there is also some who feel that an immune-mediated disease, where the pet’s own immune system destroys the ligamentous structures of the stifle could also be involved. Lameness is a common symptom of a dog that has a torn ACL

In my opinion, various nutritional factors and over vaccination may be playing roles here.  Unfortunately up to 50% of dogs, who tear one curiae ligament or ACL, are at some point in the future also going to have the other stifle affected. An ACL rupture is often diagnosed by your vet palpating excessive laxity in the knee/stifle known as a positive “drawer” sign. However, in some partial cases this can sometimes be difficult to elicit. Many pets need to be sedated and have appropriate x-rays taken, as well as even some having joint taps to assess the joint fluid, as well as sometimes exploration of the joint to definitively diagnose those sometimes elusive and vague cases.

If your pet is diagnosed with this condition, there are various surgical techniques available from the expensive TPO procedure to many others, but this will vary depending upon the particular surgeon. Even when surgically corrected, some degree of degenerative joint disease and joint thickening often develops at some point in the future.  I have seen lighter and smaller breeds with partial tears often return to normal function with rest, prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and joint supplements, regaining adequate use and function of the affected limb over time and patience.

With the breeds especially prone to tearing this ligament, I always recommend a good natural diet such as Azmira, Be Well, or even a proper homemade diet following a balanced recipe.  I will sometimes supplement these pets with extra vitamin C in the form of Ester-C to strengthen the collagen of the connective tissue of the body from doses as low as 500 mg up to a few grams once to twice daily, depending upon the size of the pet.  I also love using antioxidants as well to natural help prevent and reduce inflammation such as Proanthozone, as well as Yucca Intensive by Azmira. Glucosamine/MSM derivatives including Super Joint Enhancer or Glyco-Flex by VetriScience also may help enhance the health of the joints in general.

In those pets where I suspect partial tears or to help facilitate recovery from surgery, I will often recommend pet physical therapy, an emerging area of veterinary medicine that increasing numbers of veterinarians are being trained in. Hopefully by keeping the body healthy through good diet and nutritional supplementation, we can help keep our pets’ joints and ligaments healthy and strong. While there are no guaranteed preventative steps an animal guardian can take, in my practice I try and promote good diet and nutritional supplements to help keep the joints strong and healthy, and hopefully lessening the likelihood of this common and painful orthopedic condition.

Read Related Posts on PetMeds® Blog:

  1. Signs Your Pet May Have Joint Pain
  2. PetMeds® Dog Experiencing Lameness in Back Leg
  3. PetMeds®: Hip Dysplasia (Joint Disease of the Hips) in Dogs
  4. PetMeds® Joint Supplement for Dogs and Cats: Super Joint Enhancer
  5. PetMeds® Managing Dog Arthritis Pain

26 Comments

  1. Nanci
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Suggestions/advice very appreciated — My 2 1/2 yr. old Aust. Shepherd has completely torn ACL back knee. The other is partially torn. Ortho vet suggesting surgery in partially torn knee first, waiting a bit, then doing completely torn knee. What is your opinion on doing the worst knee first , with hope that partially torn knee heals with rest. Money is an issue. Price for surgery $1600 per knee for nylon thread (I think this is called Extracapsular Stabilization). Dog weighs 70 lbs. Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I have seen many dogs with partially torn cruciate ligaments heal with rest and ant inflammatories along with use of joint supplements. So I think that would be fine approach to repair the completely torn knee only to start. Even the best surgeons acknowledge that dogs WILL develop degenerative joint disease even in surgically repaired ACL’s. The supplements I would use long term include super joint enhancer, omega 3 fatty acids like nordic naturals omega 3, the antioxidant proanthozone, all which you can get from 1800petmeds. I would also look into the supplement Ligaplex II from company called Standard process, which is wonderful for strengthening ligaments when used over time.

    [Reply]

  2. Amelia
    Posted January 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Hello, Need advise for my 18 mo American Pit Bull Terrier. Vet said she has a partial tear of her right ACL and requires surgery diagnosed in Dec. We are not able to afford the surgery and I have been restricting her activity as much as possible. It’s been hard since she is so young. I am giving her Gloucosomine & Chondroitin supplements. I took her off the Rimadyl & Tramadol that the vet gave us as when she was taking the meds she was acting like nothing was wrong. We feed her AvoDerm and she weighs about 52lbs. The vet also says she has grade 3 hip dysplasia in her left hip. I wanted to know if there are any other supplements I can give her? She is still limping at times and having difficulties with getting up and sitting. please help…

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Put her on good omega 3 fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 fatty acid. Also give her proanthozone as well as antioxidant from 1800petmeds. Yucca intensive can sometimes help as well but I would not use that if on any steroids or rimadyl. Consider acupuncture as well from vet in your area.

    [Reply]

  3. Posted March 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    That’s terrible, even for a dog, but tears are real nasty and you’d have to have your vets check your dogs often.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Yes vet checks are indeed important in cruciate ligament tears.

    [Reply]

  4. Nicole Fry
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    We have a 6 year old white shepard. 80lbs and in great health. She just tore her ACL on her right hind leg. We need to have her exrayed yet but the vet is pretty sure it is torn all the way. Should we do surgery and which procedure would you recomend? She is a happy active dog. i don’t want her to not be able to enjoy our hikes and the great outdoors!
    Love and light,
    Nicole

    [Reply]

  5. jess
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    how can a ruptured acl be managed

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Prescription nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medications as well as pain meds like tramadol. Joint supplements like super joint enhancer. Surgery best in most cases.

    [Reply]

  6. Echo
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I want to know what I should do for my 2.5 years Shiba Inu who just had ACL and dislocated kneecap repairing surgery 16 days ago. I waited for 6 weeks before the surgery by restricting her activities but it did not work. After the surgery, she still holds up the injured leg. When I stretched her leg per vet suggestion, I can hear the slight popping sound and she seems not happy about it. What should I do to help her recover completely and sooner? I’m consider to bring her to hydro-rehab center, such as swimming or underwater treadmill. Want to get the professional’s opinion. Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Taking her for rehab would be great idea. I would also use supplements such as super joint enhancer and proanthozone from 1800petmeds.

    [Reply]

  7. Martine
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I have a mix Lab/blue heeler with moderate arthritis, she is on novox (rymaldin) she’s doing ok but resting on the other leg she torn/ruptured her ACL when she jumped from her chair. she is 12 y old – so no more jumping ! she is also taking cosequin DS and I wander if she could also take ligaplex II ?

    she walks on 4 legs sometimes on 3 but not as often – she seems better but no risk are taken.
    thank you for reading

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Ligaplex II would be excellent supplement for her. Also consider Yucca intensive as well by azmira and proanthozone antioxidant from 1800petmeds. Put on good fatty acid as well like be well.

    [Reply]

  8. Maria
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    I have a 2 year old lab/pit mix with a tear in her right hind leg…not sure if surgery or non surgical method is best..she’s not hurting but she went from limping to not putting any weight on her leg, so surgery was recommended by 2 vets..cost varies…she was given metcam but was affecting her eating so deramax was recommended..she’s very active but i want to try to see if 8 weeks of restrictions will do the trick first. any of the meds mentioned above are on petsmart or just 1800petmeds..

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Both meds are available with written prescription from 1800petmeds. Also consider good joint supplements like glycoflex III from 1800petmeds and the antioxidant proanthozone to help with inflammation and healing. I would also recommend consulting with a homeopathic vet to see if homeopathic remedies may help healing process as possible alternative to surgery. To learn more see ww.beyondflatearth.com Also see my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets like myself do offer phone consultations as well.

    [Reply]

  9. SJ
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    My dog has been intermittently limping for 2 weeks (right rear leg), and the vet diagnosed him with a torn or ruptured ligament today (physical and xrays). My dog is a 12 pound chihuahua, who also has luxated patellas. She referred me to have him seen by the surgeon next week for further exam under sedation, but says that surgery is the only treatment.
    I’m wondering if he should actually be seen by an orthopedic specialist, rather than a surgeon? My research seems to suggest that for smaller dogs with partial tears, surgery may not be necessary.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Sometimes with partial tears, they may respond to rest and anti inflammatories on their own along with rest. . Also joint supplements like glycoflex from 1800petmeds may help as well.

    [Reply]

  10. Deedee
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I have a 7 year old dog. She has a acl tear in both knees. We probably will do surgery . I am giving her flex n free and vital pet lipids by vitality science . She is also on cosequin n ligaplex. I hope all these mess work well together. I really want to see results.since walking funny, she has spasms in lower back. Any advice?

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Sounds like good combination of supplements. Also consider dog gone pain which you can find on line

    [Reply]

  11. chell
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    i have a 2 yr old huskey lab mix, he torn both curciate ligaments and i did do surgury. i would like to know what would be a good source of a supplement for his recovery and joints.? Hes taking cephlexin, tremadal, and melxicam.

    [Reply]

  12. Alice
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    My 8 yr. old Springer has a torn ACL. Vet recommends surgery, but instructions for recovery will be impossible! I have his sister also and she runs, he runs in the house. We have restricted him on a lead when she gets going, but this is a MOVING dog! He does not appear to be in pain,will walk on leg, but on three when runs. I was told he would have to be confined to a cage, only leash walked for potty. We would both go crazy!!! What will happen if we don’t do surgery?

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Many dogs with ACL tears will heal over time. You can ask your vet for prescription nonsteroidal anti inflammatory meds to help with pain and inflammation. Also supplement with joint supplements like super joint enhancer from 1800petmeds and fatty acid like be well. I also like proanthozone antioxidant supplement to help as well. There may be residual arthritis but should regain function of leg over weeks to months.

    [Reply]

  13. Chris
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Hi there,

    My Lhasa has an ACL, he is about 5 yrs. old and weighs 30 lbs. I’m trying to decide if I should do the surgery or let him heal on his own. I would like to know what the risk would be if I don’t do the surgery and the expected recovery time will be and or the consequences of not having the surgery. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    With or Without surgery these pets will develop some degree of Degenerative joint disease. i have seen many especially small breeds of pets heal with rest, anti inflammatories, along with joint supplements like glycoflex II, proanthozone, fatty acids and yucca intensive.

    [Reply]

  14. Maria
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi, my dog has developed hip dysplasia recently on her left leg and she had a torn ACL on her right hind leg which was fixed in January. Is this condition due to the surgery or something she developed and should she have hip surgery?
    She’s 2 and a mix of pit bull/lab.
    Will pain medication help and what kind?
    thanks

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Hip problem separate and unrelated to ACL issue. Try super joint enhancer as well as proanthozone from 1800petmeds. Also consider fatty acid as well such as one from Nordic NAturals. Consider working with a homeopathic vet to improve joint and overall health over time. TO learn more see http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets offer phone consultations.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I would try supplements and homeopathy first before hip surgery.

    [Reply]

  15. Janet
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Hi, my 10 yr old min poodle, was diagnosed with a torn ligament of her left back leg, I was told to keep her from jumping up on furniture and no stairs for at least a month. She was not given any meds at all, and it breaks my heart to see her struggle just to stand up after she has been lying down, however once she gets going she doesn’t seem to limp anymore.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I would ask your vet for a prescription for a nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medicine like metacam. For now you can try yucca intensive from 1800petmeds and perhaps natural medicine called traumeel.

    [Reply]

  16. Jessie
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I need some advice. I have a stray heeler that appeared a month ago. He has a torn or ruptured ACL. The tendon from his hip to his hock is loose and soft. The vet says surgery is needed but I don’t have the money and he’s a stray. DO you think he will get better one rest. I am getting some recomendations of putting him to sleep but he’s only about a year old.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Most dogs with ACL ruptures will regain function even with time and rest. I would ask vet about prescription nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medications like rimadyl. Also can consider joint supplements like super joint enhancer from 1800petmeds and the antioxidant proanthozone in this case. Yucca intensive by Azmira also may be helpful in this case.

    [Reply]

  17. Cherie
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Help I’m confused. 12 year old Australian Shepard tore her ACL. Her regular vet said surgery is probably not the best option for her age and health (severe hip dysplasia). Second opinion w et wants to do $3500 plate in the knee and says she will heal in 3 weeks. Now I am confused. I want to do what is best for my baby but I don’t know if surgery is the best option for her age? She has been getting by limping but still very active.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I would go with the first vet and treat more conservatively. Consider joint supplements like glycoflex III from 1800petmeds, as well as antioxidants like proanthozone. I would also consider supplement yucca intensive by azmira. Consider working with a homeopathic vet who can sometimes treat this condition over time. To learn more see http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets offer phone consultations as well and work on homeopathy, nutritional supplements and diet in trying to help a case like this.

    [Reply]

  18. Posted January 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Is it recommended to get my dog fitted with a stifle joint brace for her acl inflammation/tear? I was told that having them wear this brace at a young age can correct the problem and help strengthen the ligaments as well as prevent any further injuries to the acl.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I actually dont have experience with using such a brace. Sounds like a good idea and may be worth a try. I would check with a vet orthopedic specialist to see if this has been demonstrated to be effective.

    [Reply]

  19. Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Help. My just one year old rottie has been diagnosed with bilateral ruptured acl’s. I was told shed require TPLO procedure on both. Sometimes it’s hardly noticeable, sometimes she’ll lift her right hind leg ( which they said is worse). What supplements can I start preop, and would you do this procedure on your dog?? We are skeptical, as we have been swayed to do surgery on other pets, only to find out later the procedure wasn’t the appropriate one for the injury. We will find a way to pay for procedures if this is whats best for her quality of life / mobility. She weighs 94lbs and quite active with our 2 1/2yr old rottie girl. Thank you for your advise. We’ve been physically ill, as depending on the websites… Everything is conflicting :(

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Probably best to get second opinion in your area from preferably a veterinary orthopedic specialist. I would start supplements like super joint enhancer from 1800petmeds, as well as antioxidants proanthozone, and yucca intensive.

    [Reply]

  20. Diane
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Hello Dr. Dym. Have been reading a lot about torn/ruptured ACL’s. Our dog, 12 years old ,mixed breed(mutt), weight 28# has been diagnosed with torn ACL in her right leg. She was chasing a squirrel and suddenly stopped and started limping. This happened 2 weeks ago. The vet did a drawer test with no other tests such as an Xray. Said surgery was needed, sent us to an orthopedic surgeon and he did the same test without any Xray. Decided to try the conventional approach with rest, no jumping, no running. She will put very minimal pressure on her leg while standing but never full pressure. She limps all of the time when she walks. This has not improved at all since the injury occured. Is it normal for her to limp all of the time? She does not seem to be in pain. She lays, scratches, and sits on her leg with no problems. I have been able to bend her leg without her acting like she is in pain. The only thing I have found is a hard spot/swollen on the inside of her leg by her knee. I put pressure (squeezing slowly) on that area and at a certain point she had pain. The vet prescribed Rimadyl 25mg every 12 hours for pain and inflammation which I gave to her for the first 5 days. It made her tired and I wanted to not mask the injury and see how she would do without it. She seemed fine,no pain. Should I continue meds? Do you think there should have been Xrays taken? Does this sound like an ACL tear?
    Your site has been the most informative. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    HI Diane…. It does sound like a ruptured ACL which dont often need x rays to diagnose. I usually do x rays to make sure not alot of degenerative joint disease, etc You could try other supplements like antioxidant proanthozone at 20 mg twice daily from 1800petmeds, as well as yucca intensive and adding fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 fatty acid to meals. Consulting with a vet homeopath or other holistic vet may be helpful, as well as laser therapy. There are also potential braces that can be worn as well. All options for you if you dont desire surgery in pet this age.

    [Reply]

  21. Breanna
    Posted August 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I have an 11 year old Lhaso Apso. She has always had really bad arthritis and was on glucose pills for a while but the vet said those weren’t working for her so she is no longer on them. Recently she started only using 3 legs sometimes still 4, took her to the vet and she has a completely torn ACL. Vet wants to do surgery that is about 4-5 thousand. Money is a little bit of an issue and she is already 11, they also stated with her bad arthritis it might not even work anyway. They currently have her on Deramaxx 25mg and she gets half a tablet daily. What would you recommend?

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I would use super joint enhancer and proanthozone from 1800petmeds. I also LOVE the all in one antioxidant called Canine health By Life Vantage. Wonderful for inflammation. To order go to http://www.mylifevantage.com/drdym

    [Reply]

  22. Joan Garth
    Posted April 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Is Ligaplex a good preventative Med?. Thinking of torn ACL’s etc in Sighthounds and if so what doseage is recommended?.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I have found Ligaplex II a good supplement for torn ACL’s as well as their product Canine Musculoskelatal Support….from Standard process

    [Reply]

  23. Cindy
    Posted May 31, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    We have an almost 6 year old lab who has a torn ACL on back right leg. We have given him Rimadyl and another glucosomine supplement and tried to keep him quiet for a couple of weeks. Limp is not much better. Going on vacation in about 6 weeks so surgery is not an option before we go since recuperative time is 2 months. I was wondering if there is a brace we could use on his leg until he has the surgery. Also it is very hard to keep him quiet. Not his temperament to slow down or be quiet

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    There are braces for ACLs which you can check out on line, however clinical improvement takes much time and patience and likely more than 6 weeks. I would consider working with a holistic vet who may be able to help in a short period of time using homeopathy and supplements like gemmotherapies. To learn more about homeopathy see the booklet on http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com MAny homeopathic vets offer phone consultations as do I nationwide. Otherwise, surgery only other option if traditional meds not working

    [Reply]

  24. Shannon
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    My 8yr old dog just tore her acl 5 days ago. Unfortunately I cannot afford surgery. Right now the vet has her on rimadyl. What supplements can I give her that may help.

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    I would go with Super joint enhancer from 1800petmeds, as well as proanthozone and yucca intensive

    [Reply]

  25. Cherie
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    My 13 year old dog has severe arthritis and shetore her ACL. Due to her age I decided not to go with surgery but have her on Caprofen daily, I also have her and her 13 year brother on this supplement,; NaturVet ArthriSoothe-GOLD for Horses 32 oz Liquid 30 Day Supply , Sophie also receives monthly shots of Adequin from her vet. She has been doing well and her mobility has improved. I call her my miracle dog because she was almost immobile before and now she runs around at 13!

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Thanks for sharing. Great job.

    [Reply]

  26. Michael
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Buddy, 4 yr. Pit/Airdale mix, neutered early, loves to run, limping for months on left leg. Homeopathic Vet diagnosed (no xray) ACL tear. We’ve been restricting running for 2 months with no real relief, some acupuncture, and supplementation Joint Support Plus (Kemin).
    I am having Buddy Xrayed and diagnosed by a clinic Vet that does surgery this week.
    If he suggests surgery I can afford, but not sure whether to wait. What criteria is there for that decision? Thanks

    [Reply]

    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    No defined criteria or time limits involved with choosing surgery, although longer surgery put off, there is more scar tissue and chronic inflammation that occurs in joint that may make surgery a bit more tricky. Also consider gemmotherapies, which I have had great results with in some of these. Learn more about these on line. Ones I have found helpful for this are Common Birch, Wild Woodvine, and Mountain Pine….

    [Reply]

One Trackback

  1. [...] Sydney was placed on 3 weeks of rest (easy peazy for our Princess), but based on what I’ve learned from other dog owners and 1-800+PetMeds, I think it’s a good idea to rest her a little longer.  The dog owners I spoke with experienced a full cruciate tear (along with surgery and rehab) and I know that (1) Sydney’s partial can easily turn into a full tear and (2) we need to start watching for her other knee, because there’s a good chance that she’ll have a tear there too. “Hopefully by keeping the body healthy through good diet and nutritional supplementation, we can help keep our pets’ joints and ligaments healthy and strong.” ~ 1-800-PetMeds [...]

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