Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs is an injury that occurs to one of the ligaments in the knee, or stifle joint.  This ligament is also known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  Rupture of the cruciate ligament leads to instability, pain, inflammation, and is often associated with a torn meniscus.

Clinical signs:

  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Toe-touching gait
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty rising from sitting position
  • Clicking or popping noise in knee

Typically it occurs in young, athletic, overweight dogs.  It is more common in males and in certain breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers.  Often it occurs when dogs are running at full speed and try to turn or trip over an irregularity in the ground surface.

Even a partial tear of the cruciate ligament can cause significant pathology, as the immune system gains access to the stifle joint and inflammation ensues.

Diagnosis is through history and physical examination.  In addition, radiographs (x-rays), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or CT (computed tomography) can be useful.

Conservative Treatment:

Some cases can be managed medically with a period of exercise restriction and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as an NSAID (e.g. Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Metacam, Previcox).

Laser therapy is useful for dogs who are not good candidates for surgery due to other illnesses.  It is also helpful post-operatively.

Physical therapy and custom knee bracing/orthotics have also been tried with limited levels of success.

If the dog does not respond to conservative treatment over time, there is an increasing risk that the remaining good leg will become injured as well.

Surgical Treatment:

There are four common types of surgery.  There is very little research suggesting that any one technique is superior to the others.  Which technique  is best for a particular dog depends on a variety of factors including the size of the dog and the conformation of the leg.

  • Lateral suture technique (lateral fabellar suture stabilization, extra-capsular suture stabilization)
  • Tightrope
  • Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO)
  • Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA)

In addition, many surgeons will perform a meniscectomy if surgery reveals a significant meniscal tear.

If you believe your dog might have a torn ACL, please call us at (856) 983-9440.  Timely evaluation and treatment is the best way to help ensure a positive outcome.




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