Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you witness athletes clutching their knees and going down during a sporting event, you cringe, knowing that they likely tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a vital ligament for knee stabilization.

But did you know that your beloved pet can experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although it’s referred to by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem is essentially the same.

What exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament, which connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia), plays a crucial role in stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward, away from the femur, causing instability and discomfort for your pet during movement.

How do pets sustain damage to the cranial cruciate ligament?

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

  • Degeneration of the ligament
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed-related factors

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

What signs indicate a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The signs of a CCL tear, particularly a partial tear, can vary in severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine whether veterinary care is necessary. However, a CCL rupture requires medical attention, and you should schedule an appointment with our team if your pet exhibits the following signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty while sitting down
  • Difficulty jumping into the car or onto 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 treated?

The treatment for a torn CCL depends on your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the recommended approach, as techniques involving osteotomy or sutures are the only ways to effectively manage the instability permanently. However, medical management may also be considered as an alternative.

If your pet is limping on a hind leg, it’s possible they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Please contact our team to schedule an orthopedic exam and discuss the appropriate course of action.