One of the most common problems we see at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital is lameness, and one of the most common causes of lameness is a cranial cruciate ligament rupture.
The cranial cruciate ligament is found in the knee and prevents abnormal rotation of the joint. It’s just like the ACL in humans. When there is a rupture of this ligament, pets experience different degrees of lameness in the hind end — it’s typically not an acute injury but stems from chronic degeneration and ultimately leads to lameness from a seemingly minor incident (e.g., chasing after a deer, running in the yard, doing normal activity). Overweight pets are more predisposed to having knee problems. Abnormal conformation can also predispose to injuries.
So what should you do if your pet is lame? Take him/her to your primary care veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital to have the problem evaluated. On physical examination, the veterinarian may find “cranial drawer,” a term that refers to abnormal movement in the knee after a ligament rupture. Some pets have such strong musculature surrounding the knee that they may require sedation in order for the abnormal movement to be felt. Next, the vet will likely recommend radiographs (X-rays) of the knee to confirm the diagnosis.
So what happens if your pet has been diagnosed with a cranial cruciate rupture? Most pets do best with surgery. Some smaller pets can recover with conservative therapy, which includes pain medication and strict exercise restriction for several months. Larger pets most often need surgery, and several different surgical options exist, depending on the size of the pet. Even with surgery, however, the pet will have to be exercise-restricted, but with surgery the recovery period is often shorter and the overall improvement is often better.
Now when we talk about strict exercise restriction, we mean STRICT. No running, jumping, playing, chasing, being off leash, jumping on the bed, or roughhousing. As our pets start to feel better, they likely will want to run and jump, and exertion that comes too early in the recovery process is one of the main reasons for surgical failure. Also, pets that are diagnosed with cruciate ruptures are more likely to rupture the cruciate in the other knee as well; this chance is increased if they are not exercise-restricted appropriately. So keep your pet as calm as possible; sometimes it can be hard and seem like forever, but being vigilant will be more likely to pay off in the end.
Another tip to help during the recovery process: Do not allow your pet to lick at the surgical site, which can prevent proper healing — you may need an e-collar (a cone that goes around your pet’s head) to prevent licking. Another reason for surgical failure is infection, so also be sure that your pet is taking all medications prescribed by your veterinarian.
Another important recovery step for many pets following a cranial cruciate ligament rupture is weight loss. Taking off even just a few pounds will improve the recovery period for some overweight pets and decrease the likelihood of experiencing problems in the other knee as well. Weight-reduction plans can also reduce the risk of tearing the cruciate in the first place, especially in some of our predisposed dog breeds, including Labradors and Rottweilers.
If your pet has been diagnosed with a cranial cruciate rupture and you have any questions, please give your primary care veterinarian a call or give us a call here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital.
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