Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

It’s painful to witness athletes clutching their knees and going down during a sporting event. In those moments, you’re aware that they may have torn their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament that stabilizes the knee joint.

But did you know that pets can experience a similar knee ligament tear? While it goes by a different name—the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem remains the same.

So, 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 thrusts forward, away from the femur, as your pet walks. This causes instability and discomfort.

Now, let’s explore how the cranial cruciate ligament becomes damaged in pets.

Multiple factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear in pets, including ligament degeneration, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, skeletal shape, and configuration. In general, CCL rupture occurs due to the gradual degeneration of the ligament over several months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

But how can you recognize the signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

A CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can manifest in a range of severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine whether their pet requires veterinary care. However, it’s crucial to seek medical attention if your pet displays any of the following signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness on 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

Now, let’s explore how a torn cranial cruciate ligament can be repaired.

The treatment for a torn CCL will depend on factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the most effective option, as an osteotomy- or suture-based technique is necessary to permanently address the instability. However, medical management may also be considered.

If you notice your pet limping on a hind leg, they may have experienced a torn cranial cruciate ligament. In such cases, it’s essential to schedule an orthopedic exam with our team.