Cruciate Ligament Disease in Dogs

Dogs, like humans, have several ligaments in the knee that act to stabilize this joint.  One of the most important of these is the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL), which runs between the femur and the tibia.  In people, this is called the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, and we are known to frequently tear this ligament during activities such as skiing and other sports.  While similar traumatic tears can occur in both dogs and cats, the more common form of tear is due to Cruciate Ligament Disease (CLD).  CLD is a complex, multi-factorial problem that is seen mainly in large breed dogs such as the Labrador, Golden Retriever and Rottweiler, among others.  Some of the proposed causes include a weakness of the ligament and limb confirmation that predisposes to tearing of the ligament.

A torn cruciate ligament in small dogs may be treated with strict rest and anti-inflammatory medication.  However in medium to large breed dogs, surgery is almost always warranted.  There are many, many surgical procedures that are used to treat a torn CrCL.  Most fall into the following categories:

  • Surgery to stabilize the joint– these procedures usually involve the placement of synthetic material in a way that mimics the ligament.  The implant provides stability to the knee until the body stabilizes it with scar tissue.
  • Surgery to alter the tibia and the biomechanics of the knee, making the function of the CrCL unnecessary.  These procedures are usually the more complicated, expensive options, but many surgeons feel they provide better results in large dogs.

If your dog’s vet suspects a CrCL tear, sedation and x-rays may be recommended.  While X-rays are a good idea, the diagnosis is usually made by checking the stability of the knee with the dog sedated or under anesthetic.  After this, the vet will discuss the treatment options and the best way to manage the pain that your doggy would undoubtedly be experiencing.

Unfortunately this disease is quite common in dogs and there is no perfect solution. If your pet suffered from this disease, what did your vet recommend and did it work? Please sound off in the comments below.

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