Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When you witness an athlete clutching their knee and going down during a sporting event, it’s natural to cringe. You’re aware that they likely tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament responsible for knee stability.

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

What exactly 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 thrusts forward as your pet walks, causing instability and discomfort.

What leads to cranial cruciate ligament damage in pets?

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

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

Typically, CCL rupture occurs due to the 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 manifest with varying degrees of severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine whether their pet requires veterinary care. However, a CCL rupture necessitates medical attention, so you should 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
  • Difficulty jumping onto furniture or into the car
  • Decreased activity level
  • Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
  • Reduced range of motion in the knee

How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired?

The treatment for a torn CCL depends 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 allows for permanent management of the instability using techniques such as osteotomy or sutures. However, medical management may be considered in some cases.

If your pet is limping on a hind leg, it’s possible they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Contact our team to schedule an orthopedic examination.