In the years that we’ve been working with dogs, doing hydrotherapy and conditioning for many orthopedic issues, we’ve seen more CCL (also known as ACL) tears than we can count. In fact veterinarians report that it is one of the most commonly seen orthopedic issues.
Ligaments are bands of connective or fibrous tissue that connect 2 bones or cartilage at a joint. The Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) connects the back of the femur (the thigh bone above the knee) to the front of the tibia (large bone in the lower leg) at the knee (or stifle) joint. It is one of the most important stabilizers inside the dog’s knee and is responsible for keeping the tibia in place beneath the femur.
The CCL in dogs is similar to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in people. When speaking of a dog’s CCL, many people commonly refer to the CCL as an ACL.
The true cause is not really known. It may have to do with activity, breed, age, and excess weight.
Often, it’s caused by repetitive micro-injuries where a dog puts pressure on the ligament in the same way, all the time. This causes the ligament to stretch over time and eventually tear.
It can also be caused by structural abnormalities or a trauma, such as jumping off the couch and landing badly. Because of the anatomy of a dog’s knee, cruciate ligaments are especially vulnerable to injury.
Unfortunately, statistics show that about half the dogs who rupture the CCL in one knee will do the same in the other knee.
Depending on the severity of the tear, symptoms may range from a slight limp to fully lifting the leg and not bearing any weight on it. A dog may also have swelling on the inside of the knee.
Obviously, prevention is always the best way to go. Prevention involves 2 main areas:
Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way to guarantee that your dog will never tear his ACL. But with proper diet, conditioning to build and maintain muscle mass, and by keeping your dog lean, you will greatly reduce the chances.