A Guide to Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When observing a sports event, it’s common to cringe when witnessing an athlete collapse while clutching their knee. You can easily deduce that they likely tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament responsible for stabilizing the knee.

But did you know that your beloved pet can experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although referred to by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the issue remains the same.

What exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets? The cranial cruciate ligament, connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), plays a vital role in knee joint stabilization. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin moves forward, away from the femur, causing discomfort and instability for your pet while walking.

What leads to the damage of the cranial cruciate ligament in pets? Various factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear, including ligament degeneration, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, skeletal shape and configuration, and breed. Typically, CCL rupture occurs gradually over months or years due to ligament degeneration rather than as a result of an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

Recognizing the signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets can be challenging for pet owners, as the severity of the symptoms can vary. However, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care if your pet displays signs such as pain, stiffness, hind leg lameness, difficulty standing or sitting, trouble jumping, decreased activity level, muscle atrophy in the affected leg, or reduced range of motion in the knee. A CCL rupture requires medical attention, so scheduling an appointment with our team is essential.

How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired? The appropriate treatment for a torn CCL depends on your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the extent of knee instability. Surgery is often the preferred option, as it allows for permanent management of the instability through osteotomy- or suture-based techniques. However, medical management may be a viable alternative.

If your pet is limping on a hind leg, it’s possible they have experienced a cranial cruciate ligament tear. Contact our team to arrange an orthopedic exam and provide the necessary care for your furry companion.