Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you observe athletes in a sporting event, you often cringe when you witness them fall down while clutching their knee. You are aware that they most likely tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the crucial ligaments responsible for providing stability to the knee.

But did you know that pets can also experience tears in the same ligament of their knee? Although known by a different name—the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem remains 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 vital role in stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur as your pet walks, leading to instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament get damaged in pets?

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

  • Degeneration of the ligament
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

Generally, a CCL rupture occurs due to the gradual degeneration of the ligament over several months or years, rather than being caused by an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

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

A CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can present a range of severity in signs, making it challenging for pet owners to determine whether their pet requires veterinary care. However, a CCL rupture necessitates medical attention, and it is crucial to schedule an appointment with our team if your pet displays the following signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty during the process of sitting
  • Difficulty 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 treatment for a torn CCL depends on factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the extent of knee instability. Surgery is typically the most effective option, as techniques involving osteotomy or sutures are the only permanent ways to manage the instability. However, medical management might also be considered as a potential option.

If you notice your pet limping on a hind leg, it is possible that they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Please contact our team to schedule an orthopedic examination.