Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you witness an athlete in a sporting event clutching their knee and going down, it’s natural to cringe. You’re probably aware that they have likely torn their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament that provides stability to the knee.

But did you know that your pet can also experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although it goes by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the issue is essentially the same.

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 moves forward away from the femur as your pet walks, resulting in instability and discomfort.

What leads to the damage of the cranial cruciate ligament in pets?

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

  • Degeneration of the ligament
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

In general, CCL rupture occurs due to gradual degeneration of the ligament over several 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 and may be challenging for pet owners to determine whether veterinary care is needed. However, a CCL rupture requires medical attention, and it is 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 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 treated?

The treatment for a torn CCL will depend on factors such as your pet’s activity level, size, age, and the degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the most effective option as it provides a permanent solution to manage the instability using osteotomy or suture-based techniques. However, in some cases, medical management may also be a viable option.

If you notice your pet limping on a hind leg, it is possible that they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Feel free to contact our team to schedule an orthopedic exam.