Arthritis – Facts on Torn Cranial Cruciate Ligaments

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is a major component in the stability of the stifle (knee) joint and rear limb function, and helps to keep the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shin bone) from rubbing together at the joint and causing arthritis. The most common cause for a CCL rupture is an acute trauma or injury, such as landing wrong when playing Frisbee or getting a foot caught in a hole. Other causes would be degenerative changes caused by obesity, kneecaps that pop out of the groove, or other leg malformations.

The symptoms associated with CCL rupture are usually quite obvious. Dogs will often be three-legged lame or only be able to toe touch the affected limb. In degenerative cases the symptoms might be more subtle, such as an unwillingness to jump in and out of the car or use stairs. On occasion the meniscus will also be torn and ‘click’ when the dog walks.

CCL tears require surgical intervention. For small or older pets, a Standard repair is usually sufficient. This is a procedure in which a synthetic suture or another natural tissue near the stifle is placed to mimic the cruciate ligament that has been torn. For active and larger dogs, a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is the preferred procedure. This procedure utilizes a plate and screws to stabilize the joint following a change in the angle of the tibial plateau slope (the portion of the shin bone that makes up the knee joint). Postoperative care includes initial strict rest and a gradually increasing physical therapy regimen. Dogs that have had the TPLO procedure tend to recover more quickly than those that have had the Standard repair. Providing that the post-operative instructions are adhered to, recovery is expected in 8-12 weeks

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