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Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When witnessing an athlete clutching their knee during a sports event, it’s common to cringe at the sight. You know they likely tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament that provides stability to the knee.

But did you know that your pet can experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although referred to as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the problem is essentially the same.

What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and plays a vital role in stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward away from the femur while your pet walks, leading to instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

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

  • Ligament degeneration
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

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

A CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can cause signs that vary in severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine if veterinary care is needed. However, a CCL rupture requires medical attention, and you should schedule an appointment with our team if your pet displays the following signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing up after sitting
  • Difficulty sitting down
  • Trouble jumping into the car or onto furniture
  • Reduced 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 your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the recommended option as an osteotomy- or suture-based technique is the only way to permanently address the instability. However, medical management may be considered in some cases.

If your pet is limping on a hind leg, they may have experienced a torn cranial cruciate ligament. Please contact our team to schedule an orthopedic exam.