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Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs

One of the most common orthopedic issues that can affect dogs is a torn cruciate ligament. These injuries can occur fairly easily as a dog's knee is entirely weight-bearing. Here, our Citrus Heights vets discuss cranial cruciate ruptures in dogs, the typical signs, and what can be done to treat them.

What Is the Criania Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

The cruciate ligament, also known as the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), is a connective tissue in the knee that connects and stabilizes the lower leg to the upper leg. It connects a dog’s tibia to the femur. When torn, it results in partial or complete joint instability, pain, and immobility.

This CCL rupture is the tear of the cruciate ligament that moves the knee of your dog. Essentially the same thing as the ACL in humans.

Signs That Your Dog Has a Ruptured Cruciate Ligament

Most situations where a dog's CCL has ruptured are directly caused by degeneration over time. This is most commonly seen in dogs ages five to seven.

If a dog suffers from acute sudden onset ruptures, it will typically be in younger pups. These ruptures are caused by injuries a dog will sustain just running around living their daily lives.

Some of the common symptoms that accompany cruciate ruptures in dogs include:

  • Crepitus (crackling noise of bones rubbing against each other)
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Hind leg extension while sitting
  • Pain when the joint is touched
  • Lack of motivation to exercise
  • Irritability
  • Restricted mobility
  • Stiffness after exercising
  • Swelling/Inflammation
  • Thick/firm feel of the joint
  • Weight shifted to one side of the body while standing
  • "Pop" sound when walking

If you notice any of the listed symptoms above, contact your vet and schedule an examination for your pup.

Non-Surgical Treatment for the Rupture of the Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

In dogs under 30 pounds, there is a possibility of recovery that doesn't require surgery through ample rest, anti-inflammatories, and physical rehabilitation. This is dependent upon the size of your pet, their overall health, and the severity of your dog’s CCL injury.

Speak with your vet to learn more about the possible treatment options for your dog and which one is recommended for their unique case.

Surgery for a Full or Partial Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs

CCL surgery is the most common surgery performed in dogs and is estimated to make up about 85% of all orthopedic surgeries performed every year on dogs. Given that this is such a common injury, several procedures have been developed over the years to repair the ligament. Each technique has its pros and cons, so it is important to discuss the options with your veterinarian to determine which procedure would be best for your dog's situation. Below are the most common methods of repairing the injury.


Arthroscopy is the least invasive means of visualizing the structures of the stifle, the cranial, and caudal cruciate ligaments. The technique offers enhanced visualization and magnification of the joint structures. The technology developed for this procedure allows for minimal surgical incisions for partial CCL and meniscus tears. This method may not be an option for completely torn ligaments.

TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy)

TPLO surgery is becoming increasingly more popular and is the best option for larger dog breeds. The procedure entails cutting and leveling the tibial plateau. From there, the surgeon stabilizes the tibial plateau using a plate and screws. This surgery also eliminates the need for the ligament.

TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement)

TTA is a method of surgery that corrects the need for the CCL by cutting the top of the tibia, moving it forward, and stabilizing it in its new position using a plate. Therefore, the goal with TTA is to replace the ligament entirely, rather than repair it.

Lateral Suture or Extracapsular

Often recommended for small to medium-sized dogs, this surgery stabilizes the stifle (knee) through the use of sutures placed on the outside of the joint. This is one of the most frequently performed surgeries for this type of injury and is usually performed on dogs that weigh under 50 pounds.

Recovery After Surgery for a Dog's Cruciate Ligament Rupture

No matter which operation is performed to repair the ligament, it is the care your dog receives after surgery that will determine how successful the operation is. The first 12 weeks following surgery are a crucial time for recovery and rehabilitation. Limited exercise and encouraging your pup to begin using their leg are keys to a successful recovery.

At 2 weeks postoperatively, you can gradually increase the length of your dog’s leashed walks. By the 8th week, your dog should be able to take two 20-minute walks each day and perform some of their basic daily living activities.

After 8-10 weeks post-operatively, your vet will take x-rays to assess how the bone is healing. Your dog will be able to gradually be able to resume normal activities. Here at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital, recommend a rehabilitation program to optimize your dog’s recovery. Whatever rehabilitation facility you attend should have experience in post-op recovery from orthopedic injuries such as the TPLO.

Some dogs have also experienced positive results via acupuncture treatments and laser therapy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Has your dog shown any of the above signs of cranial cruciate ruptures listed above? Contact our Citrus Heights vets and book a consultation today to get your dog moving again.

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Family Friends Veterinary Hospital is happy to accept new patients! Our vets are passionate about improving the health of Citrus Heights companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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