All About Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you watch a sporting event, you likely wince when you see an athlete go down, clutching their knee. You know they probably tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the key ligaments responsible for stabilizing the knee.

Did you know that the same knee ligament in your pet can be torn? The issue still exists even if it is known by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)].

What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

Stabilizing the knee joint depends on the cranial cruciate ligament, which joins the thigh bone (the femur) to the shin bone (the tibia). The shin moves away from the femur as your pet walks when the CCL ruptures or tears, creating instability and pain.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

A CCL rupture or tear in animals is caused by a variety of reasons, including:

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

In general, CCL rupture occurs because the ligament slowly degenerates over months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

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

It can be difficult for pet owners to decide whether their animal requires veterinary care because a CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can result in symptoms of varying severity. But if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms of a CCL rupture, you must make an appointment with our staff right away:

  • 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

How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired?

Treatment for a torn CCL will depend on your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the best option, as an osteotomy- or suture-based technique is the only way to permanently manage the instability. However, medical management may also be an option.

A damaged cranial cruciate ligament may be the cause of your pet’s hind limb limp. To arrange an orthopedic examination, give our staff a call.