Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When we witness athletes in a sporting event collapsing and grasping their knee, it’s no surprise that we cringe. We know that they have most likely experienced a tear in their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a vital ligament responsible for knee stabilization.

But did you know that our beloved pets can also suffer from a similar knee ligament tear? While it goes by a different name, known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the issue remains the same.

So, what exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), playing a crucial role in knee joint stabilization. When the CCL becomes ruptured or torn, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur while your pet walks, resulting in instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

Several factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear in pets, including:

  • Ligament degeneration
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

In most cases, a CCL rupture occurs due to the gradual degeneration of the ligament over a period of months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

What are the signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

Identifying a CCL tear, particularly a partial tear, can be challenging for pet owners. The severity of signs can vary, making it difficult to determine whether veterinary care is necessary. However, a CCL rupture requires medical attention, and if your pet displays any of the following signs, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with our team:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty sitting
  • Trouble jumping into the car or on furniture
  • Decreased activity level
  • Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee

How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired?

The appropriate treatment for a torn CCL depends on various factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the degree of knee instability. Generally, surgery is the recommended option as it provides a permanent solution by utilizing either an osteotomy- or suture-based technique to manage the instability. However, medical management might also be a viable choice.

If your pet experiences hind leg limping, it’s possible that they have suffered a torn cranial cruciate ligament. Don’t hesitate to contact our team and schedule an orthopedic exam. We are here to help your furry companion regain their mobility and well-being.