Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

A cranial cruciate ligament rupture is an injury we often see and treat at the Animal Hospital of Colorado Springs. We are pleased to provide educational information that you may need regarding this injury and its accompanying surgical process. You may also hear this ligament referred to as the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.

What are the Cruciate Ligaments?

The cruciate ligaments are two ligaments called the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament. Both ligaments are strong, tendenous bands that extend from the head of the tibia to the intercondyloid notch of the femur, connecting the femur and tibia to make the knee move properly.

Where are the Cruciate Ligaments?

The two cruciate ligaments intersect each other inside the stifle (knee) joint.

What is a Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The stifle (knee) joint is designed to move on a single course: forward and backward. Most dogs develop a cranial cruciate ligament injury due to chronic inflammation within the stifle (knee) joint. This causes the ligament to become weak. Then typically an acute injury is caused when there is a twist in the movement of the knee joint. These are most often seen in activities where dogs or even human athletes are running and change direction suddenly. Injuries to the cranial cruciate ligament may include a complete rupture of the ligament, a partial tear, or stretching of the ligament. Typically partial tears or stretching of the ligament will eventually progress into a complete rupture of the ligament.

Signs of an injury to a Cranial Cruciate Ligament often include:

What is the Process of Diagnosing a Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The first step is for our veterinary team is to get a thorough history on how the injury occurred and determine which leg the patient is having an issue with. Watching the pet walk helps determine which leg is affected. Then a complete orthopedic exam is performed. If the exam findings are consistent with a cranial cruciate ligament injury, then radiographic images of the affected stifle (knee) joint are taken. An arthroscopic procedure or an MRI may occasionally be used to verify the extent of damage.

What Other Damage Can Be Caused by a Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury?

In addition to the ligament damage, there may be damage done to other structures in the stifle (knee) joint. The cartilage in the joint, also called menisci, can be damaged. It is common to have damage to the medial meniscus, the lateral meniscus, or both. Arthritis may also be present.

Will My Pet Need Surgery?

his is determined on an individual basis, but most dogs will require surgery. Surgical correction is considered the best option for most pets. Without performing surgery, arthritis develops quickly and the risk of meniscal injuries and chronic pain is much more likely.

Surgery Information

There are a variety of surgical options for repairing this injury. Surgical options are determined on an individual basis, depending on the animal’s needs and injury type. Your veterinarian will discuss your pet’s specific treatment options with you.

Post-Operative Care

Your pet should be restricted on their activity for 6-8 weeks following surgery. It is important that you follow all specific instructions given to you by the veterinarian to help normal function resume. Because the injured joint may develop arthritis over time, we may recommend nutritional supplements as a part of the healing process as well. We can discuss all of these details with you during your pet’s consultation.

Obesity is certainly an issue for an injury of this nature. We believe that weight loss is as important as surgery to preventing future injuries and promoting healing.