Understanding Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets

When witnessing a sports event, it’s common to cringe when seeing an athlete fall while clutching their knee, as it often indicates a tear in their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a crucial ligament that stabilizes the knee.

But did you know that your pet can also experience a similar knee ligament tear? Although known by a different name, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the problem remains the same.

What 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.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

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

  • Degeneration of the ligament
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed characteristics

In general, a CCL rupture occurs due to gradual degeneration 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, particularly a partial tear, can manifest in various signs of different severity, making it challenging for pet owners to determine if their pet requires veterinary care. However, a CCL rupture necessitates medical attention, and if your pet displays the following signs, it is important to schedule an appointment with our team:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness in a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing up after sitting
  • Difficulty during the sitting process
  • Difficulty jumping onto furniture or into the car
  • 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 degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the most effective option, as it allows for permanent management of the instability through osteotomy- or suture-based techniques. However, medical management may be considered in certain cases.

If you notice your pet limping on a hind leg, there is a possibility of a torn cranial cruciate ligament. Please contact our team to schedule an orthopedic exam.