Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (CrCL) in Dogs

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (CrCLR) is the most common orthopedic condition affecting dogs in North America. This ligament is found in the knee and is known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans. Large breed and very active dogs are more likely to get injured just as much as older and overweight pets. However, dogs of any age and breed can rupture their ligament in one or both knees. Some of them are more susceptible to this condition because of an abnormal conformation of their knee.

A torn CrCL makes the knee unstable and causes a significant amount of pain to the point that the dog will have trouble walking properly. If treatment is delayed for too long, the lack of stability in the joint will further damage other structures such as the meniscus (additional pain) and ultimately lead to osteoarthritis, which will further compromise the normal function of the knee. Dogs with a torn CrCL will naturally put more weight on the opposite limb to alleviate the pain but this adjustment will put excessive load on the healthy limb, and lead to a ruptured ligament on that leg as well. Thus, a unilateral CrCL rupture can lead to a bilateral CrCL rupture.

Surgery is the most effective long term treatment option for the condition. There are many surgical techniques including but not limited to: Extracapsular  Repair, Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA) and Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). At Liberty Animal Hospital, we can perform both the extracapsular repair and the TPLO.

With the extracapsular repair, a strong nylon band is used to stabilize the ligament-deficient knee and keep it from shifting back and forth. Over time, scar tissue forms and further stabilizes the joint. With this technique, pets must limit their activity for two to three months after surgery to allow proper healing. With the TPLO, the anatomy of the knee is literally reconstructed to allow proper biomechanical dynamics of the CrCL deficient knee to restore proper function. The TPLO is a solid construct. Pets that undergo a TPLO surgery tend to bear weight quicker on the affected limb as opposed to the extracapsular repair but the long term outcomes are about the same.

At Liberty Animal Hospital, our veterinarian will discuss with you the treatment option that best fits the size, anatomy and lifestyle of your pet, along with other factors that will help in recovery and early return to function. As usual, nothing is as perfect as “mother nature”. It’s best to prevent injuries if possible by taking the necessary steps to prevent obesity, strenuous and uncontrolled exercise. But if injuries happen, we are here for you.

Liberty Animal Hospital serves pets and pet owners in Westminster, Colorado and the greater Denver area. Visit our website or give us a call at (720) 306-9900 to schedule a consultation to discuss CrCL injuries in your dog (s).

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