Pet Peeves: Joint injuries in dogs

How to know if your dog is suffering from a CCL injury

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - In this week's "Pet Peeves", we're talking about joint injuries in dogs. There's one that can ail any dog but some are more prone than others.

Dr. Amanda Conkling from BluePearl Veterinary Partners talked about injuries to the cranial cruciate ligament  or CCL.

The CCL, comparable to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans, refers to the connective tissue that joins the thigh bone (femur) to the lower leg bone (tibia) at the knee. The CCL plays an important role in stabilizing the knee joint and allowing flexibility and mobility.

While an injury to this ligament can occur in virtually any type of dog, certain dogs are more prone than others. Dog breeds prone to CCL injury include Labrador retrievers, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Staffordshire Terrier, Mastiff, Akita, Saint Bernard, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Overweight dogs, dogs who are physically inactive followed by bursts of activity, male dogs who were neutered before five months of age and dogs with physical abnormalities in the rear legs are also more likely to experience a CCL injury.

Because CCL disease is a slow, degenerative process, 40-60% of dogs who have already injured the CCL in one knee will experience rupture in the opposite knee.

The signs of a CCL injury in dogs include:

  • Lameness/limping in one or both hind legs
  • Avoiding the use of one particular leg
  • Hunched posture and sitting with legs out to one side
  • Difficult rising after rest

CCL injuries are diagnosed by a complete orthopedic exam. The CCL is not visible on radiographs but secondary changes such as degree of arthritis can be assessed and other orthopedic conditions can be ruled out.

Treatment of CCL injury is usually surgical repair. There are many options for CCL repair surgery depending on a surgeon’s preferences and the size of the patient. Pain management, minimizing arthritis and return to function are always top priorities. Surgical treatment is typically more effective than rest (known as “conservative management”), which does not offer a long-term solution nor minimize progressive arthritis.

If you believe your dog has a CCL injury, contact your veterinarian.

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