WA Veterinary Emergency & Specialty

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease

What is Cranial Cruciate ligament disease?

The most common cause of hind limb lameness in dogs is a tear or rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. This painful injury results in an unstable joint and results, if left untreated, in degenerative changes to occur in your pet’s knee joint. Rupture can occur due to trauma when the joint is rotated unexpectedly, hyperextended, or when it is hit from the side or the front. More commonly the ligament undergoes degenerative changes as your pet ages and results in initially partial tearing, which may progress to a complete rupture over time. In addition certain conformational defects, such as abnormally shaped legs, can also lead to a slow degeneration of the joint over time.

Surgery can address the instability caused by the torn ligament and provides the best chance of return to a reasonable level of knee function. There are various different procedures available including osteotomy based surgeries involving a bone cut (e.g. Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO), TTO and TWO) as well as suture based surgeries (e.g. extracapsular (De Angelis) suture placement, tightrope procedures). During your consultation a surgeon will examine your pet and recommend the most suitable surgery.

Postoperative care at home is critical

Premature, uncontrolled or excessive activities risk complete or partial failure of any surgical repair. Such failure may require repeat surgery to address. Proper postoperative care will be explained to you in detail by your dog’s surgeon before and after surgery.

The long-term prognosis for animals undergoing surgical treatment for cranial cruciate ligament disease is good, with reports of significant improvement in up to 90% of the cases. While arthritis can progress regardless of treatment type, it’s expected to be slower and have less clinical significance when appropriate surgery to stabilise the knee is performed.

As with any kind of orthopaedic surgery, the recovery period is crucial and the animal’s activity must be strictly limited. Patients must not be allowed to run, jump, play or have free activity during their recovery period.