Jan 16 2018

Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs

We offer a range of orthopaedic surgeries at Chapman Animal Hospital and recently we have been seeing an increase in some of these injuries, today I’ll be discussing one of the main injuries we see in the clinic and what we can do for your pet in this situation.

Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cruciate ligament disease is one of the most common causes of hind leg lameness in dogs that we see in the clinic. This ligament is an important part of the knee joint and helps connect the femur to the tibia (upper and lower leg bones). When this ligament is torn or ruptured the knee becomes unstable and causes abnormal movement. It is a painful condition and typically requires surgical correction.

Cruciate ligament disease can be a chronic (long term) condition or it may be acute (sudden onset). If the ligament has been partially torn your dog may present with intermittent hind leg lameness over a long period of time, in these cases arthritis is usually already present. A complete rupture of the ligament usually presents as sudden onset lameness possibly after exercise or trauma and arthritis may not be present.

A diagnosis is made through a physical exam with your vet or x-rays of the knee joint. Most of the time your vet will be able to feel a ‘drawer sign’ when feeling your dog’s legs by moving the femur and tibia in a certain way, however in dogs with extreme pain or strong leg muscles a sedation may be required to confirm the diagnoses. A cruciate ligament rupture can occur in any breed however we tend to see it more in large breed dogs (German Shepard, Labrador, Golden Retriever), working breeds (Cattle dogs, Kelpie, Border Collie) or overweight dogs.

The surgery to correct this problem involves using a type of suture material as a replacement ligament and stabilising the joint so it is able to function as normally as possible. Each dog recovers differently, however strict cage rest is recommended for the first 6 – 8 weeks post operatively and physiotherapy is used to build up movement and muscle in the leg after 4 weeks. It is recommended to implement long term arthritis management in these cases as a preventative measure.

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