Cranial Cruciate Ruptures — Pain in the Knee



It is spring so we all are getting out there more and having fun. It is a time of reckless abandonment. The wet, cold and windy season is supposed to be behind us and the sun is out longer. This time of year is one of my favorite seasons. With all the activities we are starting back into we need to remember that our muscles have not been exercised hard in a few months so warming up and cooling down is the key to safe and healthy fun.

One of the problems we tend to see in pets, especially dogs, is the rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. This can happen any time of year but it tends to be when pets are running and playing that they hurt this ligament. A cranial cruciate ligament is also known in the human world as an ACL which we have all heard horror stories of human athletes tearing.

The cranial cruciate ligament is a small strong ligament that is between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) (back legs). There are actually two ligaments between these bones, a cranial and a caudal, and they cross in the middle making an X — hence the name cruciate. These ligaments function include keeping the leg from shifting too far forward with each step, decrease internal rotation and prevent over-extending your kneeCCR drawing

Don’t laugh at my masterpiece!

This is typically a dog problem but it can be seen in cats. The way most people see this happen is that the pet is running around in the yard, they plant a foot and turn, yelp and come back carrying the leg. The rupture can actually happen slowly over time or all at once. The onset of arthritis starts within a week or so of the trauma. In fact, cranial cruciate rupture (ccr) is one of the major reasons for lameness in a dog and a major cause of degenerative joint disease in the knee. Along with tearing the cruciate ligament your pet can also tear the meniscus which acts as a shock absorber inside the knee joint.

All breeds are susceptible to cruciate disease but we do commonly see more larger breed dogs such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Mastiffs; unfortunately, females tend to represented more than males.

If your pet becomes acutely lame, you should take them into the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do a complete history, physical exam and may want to take radiographs (x-rays) of your pet’s knee. A test that veterinarian usually does is called a “drawer test”. In this test, your veterinarian will hold your pet’s femur and tibia and trying to move the tibia back and forth like opening a drawer. This test can be negative and a torn cruciate still be present especially if your pet is awake when the veterinarian tries the test.

There are a number of ways to treat cranial cruciate rupture and those surgery procedures will be discussed over the next couple of blog posts. The biggest way to decrease your pet’s chance of cranial cruciate rupture is to keep their weight down, warm your pet up appropriately prior to exercise, cool down appropriately after exercise and if they should become lame go see your veterinarian at once.

Rehabilitation has become a medical way to deal with cranial cruciate rupture. Rehabilitation can decrease muscle loss, decrease pain associated with cranial cruciate rupture and may decrease the amount of arthritis that invades the joint but the best course of action is surgery and then rehabilitation.

I do recommend weight loss, glucosamines, and pain medications while your pet is going through surgery or medical management. There are some bracing techniques also but again surgery has the best chance of correcting the problem.

If your pet should have any problems with his knee, consult with your veterinarian and then give ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center a call — we will devise a plan for getting your pet back on his feet.



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