Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries

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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries

One of the more common lameness injuries we see in dogs is caused by the tearing or damage of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the knee.

The CCL is made up of many twisted fibers, similar to a piece of twine. This little piece of fibrous tissue is what keeps the tibia and the femur from slipping and sliding against each other and stabilizes the knee (stifle).

Damage to the CCL is a common injury and it often doesn’t take too much considering the size of this ligament. If some of those fibers are torn, it is called a ligamental tear. If the entire ligament is torn, it is a rupture. A funny jump or landing could be enough to cause injury, especially in animals who have share a genetic predisposition for CCL injury, like Labradors, Rottweilers, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers and Newfoundlands. In these breeds, the tibial plateau slope is sloped too far backwards so there is a constant stress on the CCL which leads to a degenerative rupture.

When the CCL ruptures, the joint becomes unstable which causes pain and can lead to chronic progressive arthritis in the stifle if untreated. If you have a limping pet, take your pet to your vet to see if a torn or ruptured CCL could be the cause. There are a couple of simple range of motion tests that can help figure out if CCL injury is the culprit. After a full examination and discussion of symptoms, your vet will want to get lab work and possibly x-rays or an MRI of the joint.

Potential Treatments

  • Short term steroids, other anti-inflammatories, and pain medication
  • Forced rest and/or support bandages
  • Laser therapy
  • Glucosamine, MSM, Anti-oxidants, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Weight loss
  • Surgery -
    Many patients with CCL damage benefit from surgery. There are several different surgical techniques commonly used to make the knee stable again; TPLO surgery is very common. TPLO, or tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy, is a surgery performed on dogs to stabilize the knee joint after ruptures of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) as a result of long-term degeneration.

It is possible that your pet can heal without surgery to the point where it will use the leg adequately. However, the more active, robust, and heavier the dog, the more likely it will have continued complications and pain unless the problem is corrected surgically. Your vet will go over all of the surgical options with you to help you come to the right decision.

No matter what you choose to do, you can expect your dog to have a long recovery period. During this time, strict rest must be enforced. Your dog must be confined to a crate or small room and taken for short potty breaks on leash. Plan on a minimum of eight to twelve weeks.
Posted Thursday, October 08, 2015