What is Canine Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears?

When you watch a sports game, you probably wince when an athlete falls and grabs their knee. You know that they probably tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is one of the main ligaments that keeps the knee stable.

Did you know that the same knee tendon can be torn by your pet? The trouble is the same, even though it has a different name: the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).


What does it mean when a pet’s cranial cruciate ligament is torn?

The cranial cruciate ligament, which links the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), is very important for keeping the knee joint stable. When the CCL breaks or tears, the shin moves away from the leg as your pet walks. This makes your pet unstable and uncomfortable.

How do pets hurt their cranial cruciate ligaments?

A torn or ruptured CCL in a pet can be caused by many things, such as:

  • 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.


How do you know if your pet has a torn cranial cruciate ligament?

A CCL tear, especially a partial tear, can cause a wide range of symptoms that can make it hard for pet owners to tell if their pet needs to see a vet. But a torn CCL needs medical care, so if your pet shows any of these signs, you need to schedule an appointment with our team:

  • 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


What can be done to fix a torn cranial cruciate ligament?

The best way to treat a torn CCL will rely on how active your pet is, how big it is, how old it is, and how unstable the knee is. Most of the time, surgery is the best choice because only an osteotomy or suture-based technique can completely fix the instability. But it may also be possible to treat the problem with medicine.

If your pet is walking funny on one of its back legs, it may have torn its cranial cruciate ligament. Call our team to set up an appointment for an orthopedic checkup.