Canine Cruciate Ligament Injury

Canine cruciate ligament injury occurs when an ACL or a CCL tears in your dog's knee. It is a very painful condition and will need to be addressed by a veterinarian. The condition is a common orthopedic problem in dogs. To learn more about canine cruciate ligament injuries, read on.

What Causes a Canine Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The condition can occur in dogs for various reasons. It is often the result of an athletic injury in an otherwise healthy dog. Running or jumping can cause the injury, especially if the dog lands incorrectly. Obesity in dogs can also play a role in canine cruciate ligament injuries, because overweight canines carry more weight and usually have weaker joints on the body. In addition, many dogs are simply just predisposed for this type of injury.

What Happens When Cruciates Go Bad?

A cruciate ligament injury is caused by a rupture or tear in the ligament. The anterior ligament is the most commonly damaged area, but the posterior ligament can tear as well. When the cruciate ligament ruptures, the tibia begins to move around in the femur. This causes pain and discomfort in the dog. A sudden onset of lameness in the rear leg can be a sign of a cruciate ligament tear. If not treated, the injury can cause permanent lameness and pain. For this reason, it is highly advised that your dog receives treatment if you notice any signs of the condition.

Diagnosing Cruciate Ligament Injuries

A veterinarian will perform an orthopedic examination on the dog, and if he suspects a knee injury, he will check the dog for a cranial drawer sign. A positive drawer sign will indicate that the tibia can be pushed forward from the femur, as if it is opening a drawer. A veterinarian may also perform x-rays on your pet to look for fractures or arthritis. Rarely, your dog will be referred to more advanced examinations, such as an MRI.

Treatment for Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Most dogs with the condition will need surgery, but a small amount may only require conservative therapy. The therapy usually involves weeks of rest and brief exercise and walks, usually only for bathroom breaks. Sometimes, an anti-inflammatory drug or a knee brace will be used.

Surgery is the preferred method of treatment with a cruciate ligament injury. Prognosis is usually good, but there are different approaches that can be taken. The traditional surgery, or an "extracapsular repair", involves the removal of the torn ligament with a suture replacing the ligament. It is less expensive than other methods, and can be extremely effective in many dogs. Another surgical option is the tibial plateau leveling procedure. This involves the alteration of the knee joint, which allows it to function with a cruciate ligament. A full recovery may take months after the procedure. The last option is the tibial tuberosity advancement procedure. It also allows the knee to properly function without a cruciate ligament and placing hardware into the knee. This procedure may require months of recovery, but is generally very effective.