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What are Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets?

When observing a sports event, it’s common to cringe when witnessing an athlete fall while clutching their knee. This is usually an indication of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a crucial ligament responsible for knee stability.

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

What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament is a vital connector between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia), playing a key role in stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin bone moves forward as the pet walks, causing instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

Multiple 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 structure
  • Breed

In general, a CCL rupture occurs due to gradual degeneration over several months or years, rather than from a sudden 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 in various degrees of severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine if veterinary care is necessary. 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 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

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 extent of knee instability. Surgery is usually the most effective option, as either an osteotomy or suture-based technique is necessary for permanent management of the instability. However, medical management may also be considered.

If your pet exhibits hind leg limping, it’s possible that they have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Please contact our team to schedule an orthopedic examination.

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