take a knee: cranial cruciate ligament injuries

White fluffy dog with red frisbee in mouth | Cranial cruciate ligament injuries in dogs
Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Dec 16 2012

Playing ball in the backyard? Catching Frisbees in the fields? Chasing a puck in the pasture? (Enough alliteration yet?)

Regular exercise for you and your pet is a must, but be aware that your canine quarterback can suffer from sports-related injuries in much the same ways as human athletes. In fact, the most common orthopedic injury in our dogs is directly analogous to one of the most well-known professional sports injuries – the dreaded ACL tear.

CCL injuries in pets

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the supportive ligaments in the knee joint. Complete or partial tears of the ACL cause pain, swelling and often instability of the joint. In animals, because of a difference in anatomical terminology, we tend to use the term cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) more commonly, but the two terms are often used interchangeably.

So, how do these injuries occur in pets? Well, it usually takes a severe twisting or jarring motion to cause the CCL ligament to rupture, but studies suggest that around 75% of pets that suffer CCL tears have a degree of predisposition due to genetics, obesity, age or concurrent disease. Additionally, when one knee has suffered an injury, there’s a much increased chance of the other knee also suffering a tear within the next 12-28 months.

Fortunately, medical advances and better post-operative care mean that there’s never been a better chance of getting your superstar back on all four feet in record time. However, advanced surgical techniques like tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA) and then after-care like hydrotherapy can come with a hefty price tag – surgery alone can top $5,000. When you consider that Americans spend over $1.2 billion dollars per year on CCL repairs alone, you can see why more pet owners are looking to pet insurance to help manage the financial trauma.

So, as head coach for your pooch:

1. Make sure they spend as little time on the bench as possible, make sure your pets stay lean and fit.

2. Look out for anyone that needs to go on the injury report; keep a keen watch out for any limping after exercise and contact your vet immediately.

3. Preparation before any big game is key; get a pet insurance policy in place BEFORE your pet runs into a problem.