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Dog Advice | Cruciate Ligament Damage | Vets4Pets
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Cruciate Ligament Damage

Petplan insurance paid out over £11.3 million in claims for Cruciate Ligament Damage in 2015.

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What is Cruciate Ligament Damage?

The cruciate ligament is a band of tough fibrous tissue that attaches the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), preventing the tibia from shifting forward relative to the femur. It also helps to prevent the stifle (knee) joint from over-extending or rotating.

Trauma to the equivalent ligament in humans is common, and damage most frequently occurs during some form of sporting activity such as skiing or playing football. However; cruciate ligament disease is very different in dogs as rather than the ligament suddenly breaking due to excessive trauma, it usually degenerates slowly over time due to the fibres within the ligament weakening.

The exact cause of this is unknown, but genetic factors may be important with certain breeds being more susceptible - including Labradors, Rottweilers, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers and Newfoundlands. Other factors such as obesity, hormonal imbalances and certain inflammatory conditions of the joint may also play a role. It’s common for dogs that have ruptured the ligament in one leg to develop the condition in the other leg.

What signs should I look out for?

Limping is the most common sign and may appear suddenly during or after exercise in some dogs, or it may be progressive and on occasion in others. Some dogs are simultaneously affected in both knees, and these dogs often find it difficult to rise. In severe cases, dogs cannot get up at all.

How is Cruciate Ligament Damage treated?

Surgery is commonly performed to secure the tibia to the femur and restore stability via a number of surgical techniques. Depending on the procedure used, it may take two to three weeks before your dog is able to bear weight on the injured leg, and, in all cases, exercise is usually restricted for at least six weeks to allow for adequate healing.

Tips for owners:

  • Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to prevent cruciate injuries in dogs and it can be common for dogs to develop the condition in the other leg. To help minimise the risk, maintain an optimal body weight for your dog, so ensure your dog doesn’t become overweight, exercise them regularly and avoid excessive high jumping.

  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your dog develops a common condition such as Cruciate Ligament Damage, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.