What to Know About Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

One of the more common orthopedic problems we see at Ridgewood Animal Hospital is injury to the cranial cruciate ligament. This ligament is located between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone), stabilizing the knee. When there is a complete or partial tear in this ligament, the knee is able to slide forward during the weight bearing stage of walking. Instability in the joint leads to pain, lameness (dogs may or may not be able to bear any weight on the affected limb) and, if not addressed, meniscal (cartilage pad) injury and severe osteoarthritis. This injury is addressed in 2 ways: surgery or medical management.


The only way to “fix” a cruciate rupture is surgically. Even with a partial tear, the ligament cannot heal and will eventually progress to a complete tear. The longer the joint remains unstable, the more difficult and less satisfactory the results will be. This is because the body will attempt to stabilize the joint itself by producing more bone (arthritic changes). The two most common types of surgical correction are the lateral rerinacular stabilization and the tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). The stabilization is commonly done in private practice on dogs less than 80 pounds in weight and without any other complicating problems (ex. hip dysplasia). A TPLO is a specialized procedure done by trained veterinary orthopedic surgeons. Should your dog need surgery, the doctors at Ridgewood Animal Hospital will evaluate your pet to determine which surgical procedure is appropriate.

Medical Management

In the cases where surgery is not performed, medical management is used to address comfort only. Rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and joint supplements are the crux of this treatment plan. Therapeutic cold laser can also be beneficial. Unfortunately, all these treatments only address the pain and not the injury itself. In addition, the cruciate on the nonaffected limb usually becomes damaged within 2 years of the initial injury. Dogs with bilateral (both hind limbs) cruciate rupture find even walking exceedingly painful and difficult. Medical management is best used in conjunction with surgical treatment rather than alone.

As with any medical or surgical case, each individual is different. Should you suspect your pet is suffering from any orthopedic problem, call Ridgewood Animal Hospital at 434-525-2111 to schedule an evaluation.