What Causes Pet Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears?

When you watch a sporting event, you likely wince when you see an athlete go down, clutching their knee. You know they probably tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the key ligaments responsible for stabilizing the knee.

Did you know that your pet can tear the same knee ligament? Although called by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem is the same.

What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

Stabilizing the knee joint depends on the cranial cruciate ligament, which joins the thigh bone (the femur) to the shin bone (the tibia). The shin moves away from the femur as your pet walks when the CCL ruptures or tears, creating instability and pain.

How does cranial cruciate ligament damage occur in pets?

A CCL rupture or tear in animals is caused by a variety of factors, including:

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

In general, CCL rupture occurs because the ligament slowly degenerates over months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

What are signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

It can be difficult for pet owners to decide whether their pet needs veterinary care when they notice symptoms of a CCL tear, especially if the tear is partial. However, a CCL rupture necessitates medical attention, so you must make an appointment with our staff if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness on a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty during the process of sitting
  • Difficulty jumping into the car or on furniture
  • Decreased 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 degree of knee instability, size, age, and level of activity of your pet’s knee will all affect how the torn CCL is treated. As an osteotomy- or suture-based technique is the only way to permanently manage the instability, surgery is typically the best option. Medical management, however, might also be an option.

Your pet may have torn their cranial cruciate ligament if they limp on one of their hind legs. Call our staff to arrange an orthopedic examination.