What are Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Pets?

When you watch a sporting event, you likely wince when you see an athlete go down, clutching their knee. You know they probably tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the key ligaments responsible for stabilizing the knee.

Did you know that your pet can tear the same knee ligament? Although called by a different name—cranial cruciate ligament (CCL)—the problem is the same.


What is a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

The cranial cruciate ligament, which connects the thigh bone (i.e., femur) to the shin bone (i.e., tibia), is essential for stabilizing the knee joint. When the CCL ruptures or tears, the shin thrusts forward away from the femur as your pet walks, causing instability and discomfort.

How does the cranial cruciate ligament become damaged in pets?

A multitude of factors contribute to a CCL rupture or tear in pets, including:

  • Ligament degeneration
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical condition
  • Genetics
  • Skeletal shape and configuration
  • Breed

In general, CCL rupture occurs because the ligament slowly degenerates over months or years, rather than an acute injury to a healthy ligament.

What are signs of a cranial cruciate ligament tear in pets?

A CCL tear, particularly a partial tear, can cause signs that range in severity and can be challenging for pet owners to determine whether their pet needs veterinary care. However, a CCL rupture needs medical attention, and you must schedule an appointment with our team if your pet is displaying these signs:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness on a hind leg
  • Difficulty standing after sitting
  • Difficulty during the process of sitting
  • Difficulty jumping into the car or on furniture
  • Decreased activity level
  • Muscle atrophy in the affected leg
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee


How can a torn cranial cruciate ligament be repaired?

Treatment for a torn CCL will depend on your pet’s activity level, size, age, and degree of knee instability. Surgery is typically the best option, as an osteotomy- or suture-based technique is the only way to permanently manage the instability. However, medical management may also be an option.

If your pet limps on a hind leg, they may have torn their cranial cruciate ligament. Give our team a call to schedule an orthopedic exam.