CCL Injuries in Dogs

The cruciate ligament is a key part of your dog’s knee. An injury to the cruciate ligament is actually very common type of leg injury seen among more active dogs of certain medium to larger breeds. It is sometimes called a CCL or ACL tear, and is a painful and immobilizing injury. A ruptured cruciate is not life-threatening, but it needs to be addressed and cannot be ignored or it could develop into an infection that can potentially get very bad. As the owner and active dog, it may be important to know signs and treatments of this injury, and how to prevent it from happening.


Causes of CCL Injuries

A cruciate ligament injury occurs among dogs for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is the result of an athletic injury and occurs is relatively healthy dogs. An often cause for this injury comes from landing wrong when jumping or running. Obese or overweight dogs are also prone to these types of injuries because they carry more weight and tend to have weaker joints. Also, there are some dogs breeds predisposed to a CCL injury. A cruciate rupture might not be easy to prevent, but ensuring that your dog has a healthy weight and gets plenty of exercise can minimize their risk.

Unaddressed CCL Injuries

CCL injuries are the result of a complete or partial tear or rupture to the cartilage like structure between the thigh and the shin bone. Once the cruciate ligament tears, the tibia freely moves from under the femur, leading in abnormal gait and pain. Sudden lameness in the rear leg is mostly the first sign of injury. If the injury is not dealt with, arthritic changes can quickly begin, leading to long-term discomfort and lameness. If your dog shows signs of lameness or pain, take him to the vet as soon as you can.

Diagnosing CCL Injuries

The vet will do an orthopedic exam on your dog, and attempt to isolate the pain to a certain area and rule out foot, hip or hock joint injury. If he suspects a knee injury, he will check for a cranial drawer sign, which involves the manipulation of the tibia and femur to feel for instability. There is a positive drawer sign if the tibia can be moved forward independent of the femur, imitating the motion of opening a drawer. X-rays can be done to check for fractures or arthritis. In some cases, a referral  to an orthopedic veterinary specialist for more advanced diagnostics may be recommended, like an MRI or arthroscopy.


Conservative Management

Most dogs with CCL injuries require surgery, but some of them can improve with conservative therapy. This usually involves weeks of cage rest with short and calm leash walks for bathroom breaks. There are vets who will put knee braces on your dog and prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, although these methods are often ineffective. A small number of dogs eventually recover with cage rest therapy, but these dogs mostly weigh less than 30 pounds. And even when a dog does recover with this treatment, his knee can still be injured in the future, or even tear the other knee’s cruciate ligament.

Surgical Repair

The favored method for the repair of a cruciate ligament is through orthopedic surgery for dogs. Generally, prognosis is good. There are different surgical approaches, each one with their own pros and cons. The most common procedures are a conventional extracapsular repair, tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), and the tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) proceedure. Whatever the surgery type, at least 8 weeks of post-operative resting period is needed for the healing process. Also, physical therapy is usually recommended after recuperation and can be very successful for long term recovery.

If you think that your dog has a CCL injury, get him checked by your primary vet as soon as you can. And if your dog does have a severe rupture, ask for a referral for a reputable CCL repair specialist near your area so you can get your dog scheduled for vet surgery in Central Bucks immediately. Reacting quickly and scheduling surgery for dogs in Doylestown can greatly help him recover from the injury quickly, and hopefully bring him back to how he was before, jumping and running without any problems in no time.

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