What is the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) in Dogs
I’m sure that most people know someone who has torn their ACL while playing sports or in a freak accident. The CCL in dogs is the equivalent to the ACL in humans. A CCL tear can be a complete or partial rupture, both having their pros and cons. This major ligament provides stability to the knee and is one of the most common canine orthopedic issues.
The CCL runs from the femur, across the stifle/knee joint, and attaches onto the tibia. This ligament has three functions at the stifle: prevents forward movement of the tibia on the femur, prevents hyperextension, and prevents inward rotation of the tibia. If any trauma occurs at the stifle, the CCL can become injured. However, the most common cause of a CCL tear in dogs is due to degenerative changes over time.
Signs and Symptoms of a CCL tear
If your dog has torn their CCL, they may exhibit a wide spectrum of symptoms, most commonly:
- Swelling around their knee
- Decreased range of motion
- Crepitus- crackling or grinding occurring in the stifle
- Reluctance to participate in normal activities
- Pain when the knee is touched
- Sitting with their injured leg extended
- Weight shifted off of the injured leg when standing
How is a CCL tear diagnosed?
A proper diagnosis from your veterinarian should be completed to confirm a CCL tear. The signs and symptoms listed above should not be the sole criteria for diagnosis. Your veterinarian will perform a hands-on assessment, range of motion, radiographs, and special tests such as the Cranial Drawer Test shown on the left. Next, your vet should discuss options for a proper treatment plan.
Management of a CCL tear
First, the goal is to prevent a meniscus tear or progressive osteoarthritis and to help your dog return to their normal activities. In order to do that, it is important to consult both a vet and a certified canine physical therapist. Every dog is different and several factors should be taken into consideration before making a decision on management techniques:
- The energy level of the dog
- Partial or complete rupture of the CCL
- Compensation- the level of involvement of the non-injured leg
- If the dog has a meniscus tear
Secondly, if your dog has a CCL tear, the good news is that most cases can be managed with conservative canine rehabilitation. You should be sure that you work with a certified canine rehab professional to ensure the best treatment plan for your pup. However, if your dog is young and active and has sustained a meniscus tear along with the CCL tear, they may require surgery followed by canine rehabilitation to promote a full return to higher-level activities.
Whether surgery is indicated or not, your dog should always receive rehabilitation as part of their treatment by a certified canine physical therapist. They can prescribe the proper exercises, hands-on techniques, and intensity of exercises in order to obtain the optimal level of function for your dog. There is hope for you and your pup to return to the activities you both love with a better quality of life after a CCL tear.
~Canine PT and Me Team
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