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Cruciate ligament rupture in dogs: causes, symptoms and treatment

Cruciate ligament rupture in dogs

Torn cruciate ligaments are among the injuries that occur very frequently in dogs. Especially the anterior cruciate ligament is considered to be particularly susceptible.


In the following, we will explain the causes of a torn cruciate ligament in dogs, how it becomes noticeable and which measures are necessary for treatment.

What is the cruciate ligament?

Just like in humans, the knee joints in dogs are so-called hinge joints. This means that they only allow stretching and bending movements.


In every knee joint of the dog there is a front and a rear cruciate ligament. They owe their name to the fact that they cross in the centre of the joint. The cruciate ligaments have the task of stabilizing and supporting the dog's knee joints so that they cannot twist when moving, for example.

Causes of a torn cruciate ligament in dogs

When the human cruciate ligament tears, in many cases it is a sports injury. In dogs, however, the situation is somewhat different. Of course, an accident or jumping too far can cause the cruciate ligament to tear.


Significantly more often a cruciate ligament rupture occurs in dogs but without a previous trauma. Instead, the cruciate ligaments first fray out through normal movements, until they tear at some point.


In this case one speaks also of a degenerative rupture. In dogs, the anterior cruciate ligaments almost always tear, while the posterior ones are affected only in very rare cases.


Mostly it is mainly large and heavy dogs that suffer a rupture of the cruciate ligament. Small dog breeds, however, are affected rather rarely. In addition, there are some breeds in which there is generally an increased risk.

As particularly susceptible to cruciate ligament rupture are among others the following dogs:

Symptoms of cruciate ligament rupture in dogs

If your dog has torn his cruciate ligament, this can be seen quite clearly in the form of lameness. The four-legged friend will carry the affected hind leg bent over and try to tread lightly with it.


Since the cruciate ligament in dogs often does not tear completely at once, it is possible that the symptoms will subside somewhat in the meantime. As a rule, clear pain sounds only occur when the dog's cruciate ligament is just about to tear a piece again.

Possible consequences of a cruciate ligament rupture in the dog

Of course, a torn cruciate ligament is associated with pain and a considerable restriction of your dog's mobility. However, the real problem is the possible consequences that the torn ligament can have in the long term.


On the one hand, due to the permanent relieving posture, there is a progressive loss of the musculature of the affected hind leg. On the other hand, the rupture of the cruciate ligament also affects the health of the entire joint.


It is therefore only a matter of time before your dog develops arthrosis and meniscus injuries are added to the joint problems.

A dog with torn cruciate ligament is a case for the vet

A dog with torn cruciate ligament is a case for the vet

If your dog has a noticeable limp for several days, you should always consult your vet. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, it may even make sense to go to the practice the next day.


In this case, you should avoid long walks and games together and wait for the vet to examine your dog.


Unless your dog has been struggling with knee problems for some time, the diagnosis is usually not a big problem for the specialist.


If the cruciate ligament is torn, the lower leg of the quadruped can be pushed forward with the thigh fixed in place. This examination is also known as a drawer test. It is regarded as proof of the presence of a torn cruciate ligament.


In order to exclude other joint diseases and to prepare the operation necessary for the treatment, the veterinarian will also take x-rays of the knee joint.

Surgical treatment of a torn cruciate ligament in dogs

A torn cruciate ligament does not grow back together on its own. You therefore have no other choice than to have your dog operated. There are various methods available for this.

Common surgical techniques for dogs with torn cruciate ligament are, for example

  • Replacement of the torn ligament
  • TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy)
  • TTA (Tuberosity Tibiae Advancement)

Similar to humans, the torn cruciate ligament in dogs can be replaced by substitute materials such as muscle bundles or artificial threads. However, this surgical technique is considered obsolete today.


As the threads used can easily tear or become loose, especially in large dogs, the method is primarily suitable for small dogs with torn cruciate ligaments.


The torn cruciate ligament is not replaced in TPLO and TTA. Instead, the biomechanics of the knee are changed so that the ligament is practically no longer under stress in the future. Especially in large dogs, these techniques are the means of choice today to reliably treat a torn cruciate ligament.

Aftercare of a torn cruciate ligament in dogs

Regardless of the technique used, it is necessary for your dog to take care of his knee after the operation. Otherwise a normal recovery is not possible.


In the first three weeks after the operation, physical activity should be kept to a minimum. After about six weeks, the operated knee can be put under normal weight again.


In order to avoid injuries, the intensity of the strain should also be increased only slowly. As your dog will probably not be very enthusiastic about the forced immobilisation, you will have to take a lot of time for his care in the weeks following the operation.

Preventing a torn cruciate ligament in your dog

Bellfor Joints & Bones

Of course, it is hardly possible to completely rule out a rupture of the cruciate ligament in dogs. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to at least significantly reduce the risk in your four-legged friend.


As a matter of principle, make sure that you avoid overweight in your dog. To this end, always feed your four-legged friend according to his needs and give preference to high-quality dog food.


Also avoid overloading the locomotor system. For example, large and heavy dogs should not engage in dog sports that focus on agility and long jumps.


In addition, many owners now rely on special food supplements that supply their dog's joints with substances such as collagen and hyaluronic acid and are intended to support the normal functioning of the locomotor system.


One supplement that is perfect for this purpose is Bellfor Joints & Bones with Ovopet. Thanks to the unique combination of numerous nutrients in Ovopet, Bellfor Joints & Bones in the form of capsules or biscuits can make a decisive contribution to a healthy musculoskeletal system in your dog.


Get to know about Bellfor Joints & Bones.

Cruciate ligament rupture in dogs - our conclusion

As you can see, a torn cruciate ligament in your dog is a serious matter that can lead to permanent damage if not treated promptly.


You should therefore try to reduce the risk of a rupture as much as possible and, if you experience possible symptoms of a ruptured cruciate ligament with your dog, it is imperative that you consult a vet as soon as possible.


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