A common sporting injury that we see in our canine patients here at Double Bay Vet Clinic is injury to the cruciate ligament. There are two cruciate ligaments found internally in each of the stifles or knees of dogs, the cranial and the caudal cruciate ligaments. They function to stabilize the knee and prevent excessive wear and tear to the soft cushioning cartilages that are found in the knee. When our patients injure the ligaments it is almost always the cranial ligament that is either partially or completely torn but, the soft cushioning cartilages can be damaged also. This tearing of the ligament initially results in an acute or instantaneous lameness or limping on the affected hind leg as it is very painful. This lameness and pain can subside over several days to a couple of weeks. If the ligament is completely torn the lameness never completely resolves as the knee remains unstable and this creates pain and arthritis which can become quiet severe with time. Almost always the dogs injure the ligament when running or jumping in the park or are chasing balls as it has been found at and inward rotation of the knee is usually what injures the ligament. With that being said some breeds or individual dogs have a higher chance of cruciate injury to due conformational abnormalities of the stifle. Also older dogs that have arthritis can be a higher risk as the arthritis over time can weaken the ligaments.
So What Can Be Done?
Any acute lameness should be assessed by the Veterinarian. If your dog is limping it’s because it is pain. This although doesn’t necessarily mean it has injured its cruciate ligament. There are a many possibilities that need to be assed and this should be done by your Vet. If it is found that the cruciate ligament has been ruptured surgery is indicated. Without surgery the longer term outcome and use on the affected leg will be poor. The surgery is invasive and recovery times are generally 4-12 weeks depending on the procedure opted for. There are several surgical procedures available for repair of the ruptured ligament but generally speaking the outcome for each is closely the same. The Veterinarian can discuss which is most appropriate for your individual pet. The different procedures either replace the cruciate ligament or otherwise involve changing the dynamics of the knee so as to reduce the instability with which the ruptured ligament has created. Once the procedure has been completed and the standard recovery time has passed then the patient should return to full use of the affected leg without any ongoing issues such as lameness or pain. The resultant arthritis which occurs with any joint injury will be kept to a minimum and your pet will have a very good outcome overall.
By Dr Aiden Picking