Canine Sports Medicine :Hunting and Agility Dogs
Cranial Cruciate Ligament and Medial Meniscal Injuries
The cranial cruciate ligament is one of the most important stabilizers inside the canine knee (stifle) joint, the middle joint in the back leg. Rupture of the CrCL is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain, and subsequent knee arthritis.
A cruciate ligament rupture is a rip, or tear, of one of the cruciate ligaments. There are two cruciate ligaments in the knee, the cranial and caudal. A rupture or tear of the cranial ligament is the most common and the one we will discuss here. The CCL functions to stabilize the tibia (lower leg bone). It keeps the tibia from sliding out of position and also prevents hyperextension and twisting. There are multiple factors associated with ligament injuries, ruptures or tears can occur in either hind limb and large and overweight dogs are more likely to get an injury. The most common cause for tear or rupture is trauma that puts excessive force on the knee such as twisting, stepping in a hole or landing wrong when jumping. There are two types of ruptures noticed, acute which is often seen in young large dogs and chronic which is when the ligaments degrades slowly over time.
Another structure in the stifle(knee) joint that is commonly damaged with a CCL rupture is the medial meniscis. The meniscis serves as a shock absorber between the femur and the tibia and when the ligament is torn the meniscis is commonly torn and will require surgical removal.
How can I prevent a cruciate injury?
Preventing an injury such as this is difficult. Some steps you can take to alleviate some of the risk include maintaining a healthy weight, having an exercise program that keep your pet in good shape and repairing any orthopedic abnormalities (such as patellar luxation) that may put extra stress on the CCL.
How can I tell if my dog has a CCL injury?
Lameness in the rear leg is the most common sign of a CCL rupture. Your dog will frequently hold the affected limb up and walk on three legs. Other symptoms can include pain and swelling of the joint. Crepitus, a crackling sound, may be heard when the dog walks due to bone rubbing on bone. A popping or snapping sound may also be present if there is damage to the cartilage in the knee or meniscis in addition to the ligament rupture.
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