Unveiling Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When observing a sporting event, it’s common to cringe when witnessing an athlete grasping their knee, as it often indicates a tear in their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – a crucial ligament responsible for knee stability.

But did you know that your beloved pet can experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although it goes by a different name – cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) – the problem remains the same.

What exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets? Well, the cranial cruciate ligament plays a vital role in stabilizing the knee joint by connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). When the CCL becomes ruptured or torn, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur as your pet walks, resulting in instability and discomfort.

Various factors contribute to CCL ruptures or tears in pets, including ligament degeneration, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, skeletal shape and configuration, as well as breed predisposition. Generally, CCL ruptures occur due to gradual ligament degeneration over an extended period, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

Spotting signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets can be challenging for pet owners, particularly when it comes to determining whether veterinary care is necessary. However, it’s important to seek medical attention if your pet displays any of these signs: pain, stiffness, lameness in a hind leg, difficulty standing or sitting, trouble jumping onto furniture or into the car, decreased activity level, muscle atrophy in the affected leg, or reduced range of motion in the knee.

The treatment approach for a torn cranial cruciate ligament depends on various factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the extent of knee instability. Typically, surgery is the recommended option, as it provides a permanent solution to manage instability through osteotomy- or suture-based techniques. However, medical management may also be considered as an alternative.

If your pet experiences hind leg limping, it’s possible they have suffered a cranial cruciate ligament tear. Don’t hesitate to contact our team and schedule an orthopedic exam to explore appropriate steps for their care.