Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you observe a sports event, it’s natural to cringe when an athlete goes down, gripping their knee. It’s often an indication of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a crucial ligament that provides stability to the knee joint.

But did you know that pets can experience a similar injury to their knee ligament? Although it goes by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem is essentially the same.

So, what exactly is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets? The CCL, which connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia), plays a vital role in stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL becomes ruptured or torn, the shin bone thrusts forward as your pet walks, causing discomfort and instability.

Now, let’s explore how this ligament gets damaged in pets. Several factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear, including ligament degeneration, obesity, poor physical condition, genetics, skeletal shape, and breed. Generally, a CCL rupture occurs due to gradual degeneration over months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

Detecting signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets can be challenging for pet owners. The severity of symptoms can vary, making it difficult to determine whether veterinary care is necessary. However, a CCL rupture requires medical attention, so it’s important to schedule an appointment with our team if your pet displays the following signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty while sitting
  • Trouble jumping into the car or onto furniture
  • Reduced activity level
  • Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee

Now, you might be wondering about treatment options for a torn cranial cruciate ligament. The appropriate course of action depends on factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the best option, as it offers a permanent solution through osteotomy- or suture-based techniques. However, medical management may also be considered.

If your pet is limping on a hind leg, it could be an indication of a torn cranial cruciate ligament. We recommend contacting our team to schedule an orthopedic exam.