|Most of us have heard of ACL knee injuries from the NFL as many professional football players fall victim to this type of knee injury at some point in their career. A Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) rupture in dogs is just like an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury in humans. In the veterinary orthopedic world, CCL repairs are like spays and neuters. They are considered elective operations and a single clinic veterinary orthopedic clinic may do 3-4 CCL surgeries a day.
What causes the most common knee injury in dogs? Several factors leave a dog at risk for a CCL injury.
Breed: CCL disease can affect dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages. However, certain breeds are known to have an increased chance of a CCL rupture. They are Labrador & Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, Staffordshire Terriers, Mastiffs, and Akitas. There are tools that offer outpatient virtual vet services, and pet owners can seek help from these for a prognosis. Large breed dogs and mixes are more prone to CCL injuries than smaller breeds & mixes are.
Ligament Aging: As a dog ages so does his or her body. Decreasing cell density and loss of collagen is a regular part of aging, and over time the ligament weakens leaving the dog susceptible to a CCL rupture.
Obesity: Like many other diseases & ailments, Obesity is a common factor when a CCL ruptures. An excessive amount of weight place a strain on the body and can weaken the ligaments over time.
Genetics: Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands are genetically predisposed to CCL ruptures. But breed genetics is not the only concern. Improper breeding from puppy mills and backyard breeders cause malformation in the stifle joint (knee), tibia, & femur. These malformations place a strain on the knee and can lead to a CCL rupture.
Poor Physical Condition: Just like humans, dogs need to exercise regularly. Without regular exercise, their physical condition decreases. When dog owners are asked, “When did your start limping or becomes non-weight bearing on the leg?” the most common answer is, “While we were playing fetch. He just jumped up to catch the ball and yelped.” Today, most dogs spend the majority of their time lounging on the couch and being lazy. Since they do not get regular physical activity, they can be more susceptible to injury. Remember the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”?
How do you prevent a CCL rupture? Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid an accident, but you can surely help reduce the risk by keeping your dog at ideal body weight, exercise them regularly, and feed them high-quality diet. A dog who has one CCL repair surgery has a 40-60% chance of a CCL rupture in the other knee, so keeping your pet healthy is significant!
If you notice your dog is non-weight bearing on one of their back legs or suddenly yelps while playing be sure to take him or her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Not all CCL ruptures need surgery, but getting medical treatment sooner rather than later is critical when it comes to recovery!