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Cruciate ligament injury - a common knee injury in dogs

Cruciate ligament injury (cruciate ligament rupture) is a common knee injury and cause of lameness in dogs. Here you can read about the symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury, how a cruciate ligament injury is treated and what you can do to prevent a cruciate ligament injury.

The cruciate ligaments are two robust ligaments that sit in the middle of the knee joint, surrounded by synovial fluid. There is an anterior and a posterior ligament that cross each other in the middle of the joint. If one or both ligaments tear, stability in the knee joint is lost. The lower leg can then be displaced in relation to the femur.

Before a cruciate ligament ruptures, the injury is usually preceded by a warning, often lameness and joint swelling that come and go.

The torn cruciate ligament stretches and weakens. The sum of many repeated small injuries fatigues the cruciate ligament and means that a very small misstep can cause the cruciate ligament to eventually tear. Acute traumatic cruciate ligament injuries occur on previously healthy cruciate ligaments, but this is less common.

Symptoms of cruciate ligament injury

  • Sudden lameness in one of the hind legs
  • The dog can keep the hind leg raised
  • Swelling and tenderness at the knee joint
  • Dog sits often to relieve the injured leg

Treatment of cruciate ligament injury

Treatment depends, among other things, on the dog's age and size. Most commonly, surgery is combined with follow-up physical therapy. First, a clean-up is done in the knee joint and this is usually done with arthroscopy, peephole surgery. After that, the knee joint is usually stabilized with a surgical method called TPLO, but there are several methods.

Long rest and physiotherapy

After surgery, time is required for rest. Followed by physiotherapy with gradually increased movement and various exercises adapted with the help of an animal physiotherapist. Many methods are used, ranging from swimming training in a pool to walking on a treadmill in warm water, stretching, massage and muscle stimulation. The intention is to get the injured body part moving normally as quickly as possible.

Consequences of cruciate ligament injuries

Many dogs recover enough to function well after a cruciate ligament injury, but some develop problems with osteoarthritis. The cruciate ligaments have an important function to stabilise the knee joint and damage to them results in increased mobility. A consequence of this can therefore be that the dog develops osteoarthritis - bone deposits in and around the joint.

How to prevent cruciate ligament injury

Ensure your dog is kept well trained and in good condition. Keep your dog at a healthy weight because excess weight puts strain and wear on the dog's joints.

In case of suspected cruciate ligament damage, contact a vet for examination and advice.

Frequently asked questions about cruciate ligament injuries

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