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Cruciate Ligament Injury in Dogs… Definitions, Treatment Options and More!

If you’re an NFL fan or have a passion for playing fantasy football with your friends, we here at IndulgeYourPet don’t need to tell you how “disastrous” an ACL injury can be to your team and season.

But can dogs suffer from an ACL injury as well?

This is the question that we will “attempt” to answer in today’s article and hopefully give you a better understanding of what an ACL injury might look like in a four-legged critter vs. an NFL athlete.

What is a Cruciate Ligament Injury?

When we “suspect” that a dog may be suffering from a cruciate ligament injury (which is very similar to a torn ACL in humans), what we’re saying is that we “suspect” that the ligament that connects the tibia (leg) bone and the femur has been torn in a way that makes walking or applying any pressure to the hind legs almost impossible for your dog. Now you know those inverted “knees” of your dog’s hind legs? That joint is called the stifle joint – and this is where a CCL injury will happen.

The Stifle What?

The stifle joint. This is the “joint” where your dog’s femur, tibia, and patella bones meet up in a joint capsule. Obviously, if anything goes wrong here, it’s a big problem! The CCL is how the femur and the tibia stick together in your dog, which is a  thing if you want to balk normally and not experience a ton of pain every time you take a step!

Clinical Signs of a CCL Injury in Your Dog

Since dogs can’t tell you what’s wrong, as a dog’s human, you need to pay attention to any clinical signs or symptoms that indicate something’s wrong with your pup. Whether it be a knee joint problem or a neurological problem – you’ll need to be constantly aware of things like your dog’s behavior to know if they ever have an illness or injury. Luckily, for a CCL problem, it’s pretty easy to spot because your dog won’t be walking properly. He might also have quite a bit of swelling in the “knee” area, indicating a problem.


Once you decide to take your dog to the veterinarian, you should expect them to confirm everyone’s suspicion that your dog has a torn CCL by performing a physical exam and ordering X-rays. And hopefully, your dog’s limp may not be caused by a torn CCL! It could be due to some other reason, such as:

  • Shinbone problems,
  • Tibial plateau,
  • Joint problems,
  • Meniscus injury (medial meniscus tear),
  • Other knee problems,
  • Bone pain,
  • Etc, etc…

Which is why it’s so essential that…

“When in doubt, have a vet check it out!”

Treatment for a CCL Injury in your Dog

Okay, now, if it does turn out that your dog does have a torn CCL, the treatment plan can vary significantly depending on what:

  • What kind of dog do you have?
  • How active are they?
  • And what is the extent of the tear or rupture?

Depending on your situation, your vet may recommend the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication – Sometimes, a ruptured CCL can improve/go away.
  • Surgery – if it doesn’t, then this is inevitable.

There are a few types of surgery that could be done:

  • Extracapsular lateral suture stabilization procedure.
  • Tibial tuberosity advancement (TTA).
  • Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy.

Now, if it turns out that the dog requires surgery to correct their torn CCL, you should also prepare yourself for some of the “post-op” care they may need since they will probably be relatively immobile for a while.


Your dog may also require some physical therapy to get your dog’s injured/healed leg back to its original condition. But remember, we here at IndulgeYourPet are NOT doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals! We are all passionate about animals and only want the best for you and your pet.

This is why…

If you believe your pet may be suffering from a torn CCL or experiencing any other “type” of medical condition, please be sure to have them checked out by a professional. All we want to do in this article is give you some “ideas” about what to look for and what “kind” of treatment your pet may require. We also like to write these “types” of articles because we feel that they are a perfect way to introduce a topic very few pet owners ever think about until it’s too late!

And what topic could that be?

The topic of pet insurance.   Even though nearly every pet owner will one day need to take their pet to see a veterinarian for some illness or injury, very few pet owners own a pet insurance policy to help pay for that care.

This is why…

We like to write articles like these, pointing out many of the conditions your dog may suffer from and reminding folks to take a moment and see what it might cost to get your pet insured.

For more information about who we feel currently offers some of the best pet insurance policies in the industry, we would encourage you to take a moment and visit our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.

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