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What is a Dog Cruciate Ligament Knee Injury or disease?

What is a Dog Cruciate Ligament Knee Injury or disease?

A dog cruciate ligament injury might start with a dog limp, bunny hop or not weight bearing on their back leg - these are all common signs of a cruciate ligament knee injury. We strongly recommend you support your dogs cruciate ligament whether they have surgery or not. This will increase recovery time and reduce risk of re-injury.

Cruciate ligament knee braces

Cruciate Ligament Knee Injury

"My spaniel had a TPLO operation in January. This brace offered the support and protection that his leg needed, while on holiday in Cornwall"

"My spaniel had a TPLO operation in January. This brace offered the support and protection that his leg needed, while on holiday in Cornwall"

Ligatek Cruciate Knee Brace
" I would have gone down the surgery route, but he obviously does not require surgery, just leg support when he pulls his leg. Two weeks and he will be back to normal guaranteed"

" I would have gone down the surgery route, but he obviously does not require surgery, just leg support when he pulls his leg. Two weeks and he will be back to normal guaranteed"

Walkabout Knee Brace

What is a Cruciate Ligament Injury or disease?

Dog cruciate ligament injuries in dogs cause significant pain, lameness and mobility issues in the affected leg or legs. The cruciate ligaments are located in the knee joint and help to stabilise the joint during movement. There are two cruciate ligaments in a dog's knee; the cranial (anterior) cruciate ligament and the caudal (posterior) cruciate ligament. The cranial cruciate ligament is more commonly affected by injury.

There are two main types of cruciate ligament injuries in dogs:

  • Cranial cruciate ligament rupture
  • Partial cranial cruciate ligament tear

Cruciate ligament injuries in dogs can occur due to a variety of reasons. Injuries can occur suddenly, as a result of trauma for example, however it much more commonly happens gradually over time, due to degeneration of the ligament, much like a fraying rope. Certain breeds are more predisposed, (Labradors, Rottweilers, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, Mastiffs, Saint Bernard’s and Newfoundlands for example). Other factors such as being overweight, conformation, hormonal imbalance and certain inflammatory conditions of the joint, are thought to also play a role.

At least half of the dogs that have a cruciate ligament disease in one knee will most probably develop the same or a similar problem in the other, sometime in the future. In addition to this, partial tearing of the cruciate ligament in dogs, frequently progresses to a full tear over time.

Signs and Symptoms of Cruciate Ligament Injury or Disease?

Signs and symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury in dogs:

  • Sudden lameness or holding up their affected leg
  • The knee may appear swollen due to inflammation
  • Your dog may avoid putting weight on the injured leg
  • Your dog may show signs of pain when the affected leg is touched or manipulated
  • Your dog may have difficulty walking, and their gait may appear abnormal or stiff

Limping is the most common sign of cruciate ligament injuries in dogs. This may appear suddenly during or after exercise, or it may be progressive and intermittent. Some dogs are simultaneously affected in both knees, and these dogs often find it difficult to rise from a prone position and have a very “pottery” gait. In severe cases, dogs cannot get up at all.

What Age does a Dog get a Cruciate Ligament Injury?

Cruciate ligament injuries in dogs can occur at almost any age, but it is most commonly seen in 2–10 years of age. Generally, if your dog develops a cruciate ligament injury under the age of 4 years, it is caused from trauma, whereas over the age of 5 years it is more often due to degenerative changes.

How to help out at home

  • Limit activity and consider using a cruciate ligament brace to support the knee joint and to increase recovery time
  • Consider a ‘worry mat’ or similar product which will entertain them while they have to be more sedentary
  • Arthritis supplements. Whether or not your dog needs surgery for their cruciate ligament injury, unfortunately they will inevitably develop arthritis, so a joint supplement is always recommended to help slow progression of this.

Treatment for Cruciate Ligament Injury for Dogs

Treatment options for cruciate ligament injuries in dogs vary depending on the severity of the injury, the size and age of the dog, as well as their overall health. Conservative management may involve rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy including wearing a brace and weight management. However, in many cases, surgical intervention is necessary to stabilise the cruciate ligament and restore function.
Treatment options may include:

  • Conservative management: Rest, restricted activity, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and wearing a brace can be recommended for less severe cases or for dogs that are not good surgical candidates
  • Surgical intervention: Surgical repair is often recommended for dogs with more severe cruciate ligament injuries. There are different surgical techniques available. For example; extracapsular repair, tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO), and tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA). The choice of surgery depends on what is the most appropriate option for your dog

Surgery has a high success rate of between 85-90% however good post-operative care is essential. Following surgery, your dog will require a period of rest and restricted activity to allow for proper healing. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises may be recommended to help regain strength and mobility in the affected leg. It is also important that your dog’s joint is supported, this can achieved with a supportive brace.

Recovery time can vary, but it generally takes several weeks to a few months for dogs to fully recover from a cruciate ligament injury, depending on the severity of the injury and the chosen treatment approach.

Rooney, cruciate ligament injury

Rooney, cruciate ligament injury

Rooney is wearing a knee brace to support his leg. Don't let a ligament injury slow your dog down! The Balto Jump Cruciate Ligament Knee Dog Brace gives your dog the extra bounce they need to take on the world with confidence. The Balto Jump is our most popular knee brace for treating cruciate ligament injuries.

Balto Jump Cruciate brace

How to Help Your Dogs Cruciate Ligament Injury

Q&As from Zoomadog Customers

Q: “Hi - my lurcher is having cruciate ligament surgery on Monday and I would like to get him a support to help with recovery. What would you recommend?”

A: There are the variety of knee braces that we have available. The highest level of support is the Balto Ligatek - if you were considering that, it is probably helpful to get your vet's opinion on it for post-surgery - it works for some dogs and not for others, depending on the individual situation. The Balto Jump is very popular. The Balto Jump is a good choice as it is excellent for post-surgery support but not rigid like the Ligatek.

Q: "My dog has a ligament issue in the one leg and I see the Balto Plus brace can be worn as a single or double. I know a ligament issue can arise in the healthy leg also, so could you please tell me, will this the Balto Plus brace support the legs tightly and securely, so there is no slip from thigh bone over the stifle joint? My dog is female, 2yrs old and weighs 21-22kg. She is very mobile, running and jumping in the garden but then suffers a limp for the evening but is usually back to normal by morning. I have opted not for surgery in the hope the brace can give her time to heal."

A: When one cruciate ligament ruptures, it is known that the second cruciate ligament can often go soon after. Many dog owners buy a double so that the second ligament is given support to reduce the chance of this ligament rupturing in the future. Having a Balto Plus Double will obviously provide equal support to both cruciate ligaments at the same time, this can help guard against the pressures the healthy cruciate sometimes has to withstand, if the other leg is injured.

These braces fit securely if the sizing is correct. Very rarely a brace won't work on an individual dog for whatever reason, but if you get the size right it should provide good support and not slip and so help to prevent your dog getting reinjured. The Balto Plus Double comes with all the necessary straps to use as a single leg brace or a double.

Q: "My little chihuahua has had a cruciate ligament operation on both legs. One leg didn't do well and he was allergic to the metal clip inside and so had to have it removed. Additionally he has developed arthritis. Also he has luxating patella. He is nearly 10 and not having any more operations as it nearly finished him off. He struggles walking, especially in cold weather. His problem is he has no muscle mass but if he could walk more, he would build up muscle mass. It’s a vicious circle. Which support would you recommend please?"

A: The Walkabout Cruciate Knee Brace is generally good for smaller breeds of dogs. Are you able to send over your dog's measurements and then we can check the sizing? If you could send the circumference at the top of his leg and just below his knee. Also if you would like to email a short video of your dog walking, we can take a look and see if there are any other products that might be able to help him.

Looking for help with a cruciate ligament injury and your dog?

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