Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

We all cringe when we witness an athlete collapsing, clutching their knee during a sports event. It’s often an indication of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a significant ligament responsible for knee stability. But did you know that our beloved pets can also experience similar knee ligament injuries? In animals, it’s referred to as a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear, but the problem remains the same.

What exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets? Well, the cranial cruciate ligament connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and plays a crucial role in stabilizing the knee joint. When this ligament ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur while the pet walks, leading to instability and discomfort.

Numerous factors contribute to the damage of the cranial cruciate ligament in pets. These include ligament degeneration, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, skeletal shape, and breed characteristics. Unlike a sudden injury to a healthy ligament, CCL rupture usually occurs gradually over months or even years due to degeneration.

Detecting a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets can be challenging for pet owners, particularly if it’s a partial tear. The severity of the signs may vary, making it difficult to determine whether veterinary care is necessary. However, a CCL rupture always requires medical attention, and you should promptly schedule an appointment with our team if you observe the following signs in your pet:

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

Treating a torn cranial cruciate ligament depends on various factors, such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability. Surgery is often the recommended option as it provides a permanent solution through techniques like osteotomy or sutures. However, in certain cases, medical management may be considered as an alternative.

If you notice your pet limping on a hind leg, it’s possible they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Don’t hesitate to contact our team and schedule an orthopedic exam to provide the necessary care and guidance.