Everything You Need to Know

Dog knee brace for cruciate tear

Dogs also suffer knee problems like humans. One of these problems dogs and cats usually experience is a rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. An injury or long-term deterioration, like weakening of the ligament due to old age, can cause this problem. But what is the cruciate ligament?

The cranial cruciate ligament or fibrous tissue attaching the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) helps maintain knee joint stability. Therefore, this ligament plays a critical part in your furry friend’s ability to walk, run, and move. However, as mentioned, your dog can suffer from a cruciate ligament injury due to an underlying or long-term injury or deterioration from old age.

What is Cruciate Ligament Injury? 

When injury to the cranial cruciate ligament occurs, the femur and tibia misalign due to the loosening of the knee joint. The thigh bone slides down the shin bone, causing inflammation. As a result, your dog can experience discomfort and pain.  

Your dog might become reluctant to put weight on its injured leg, and they tend to limp when walking and playing. When you observe these signs, bring your pet to a veterinarian. The veterinarian will diagnose the problem by examining abnormal movements and taking X-rays. Furthermore, the veterinarian will schedule a ligament surgery upon confirmation of cruciate ligament rupture. 

What is Cruciate Ligament Surgery? 

When your beloved dog suffers from this injury, you’ll need to get them to surgery. In this case, a cat or dog cruciate ligament surgery involves repairing the torn cranial cruciate ligament. Below are the essential things you need to know about this surgical procedure: 

1. Surgical Options

When the veterinarian confirms the diagnosis, a referral to a specialist follows. Only licensed veterinary surgeons can perform cruciate ligament surgery. In addition, your surgeon has two surgical approaches to repairing a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament: traditional and modern. Here’s how the two approaches differ:

Traditional Method  

The traditional method of repairing the ruptured cruciate ligament involves mimicking or replacing the original ligament. However, the replacement materials might not be as good as the original ligament. This might mean more surgeries for your dog or cat when these replacement materials deteriorate in the long run.

Modern Approach

The modern approach corrects the underlying problem of the ruptured cruciate ligament. The veterinarian cuts the shin bone using a surgical saw and repositions the tibia to disrupt the joint dynamics.

Subsequently, the surgeon rotates and presses the femur or thigh bone on the tibial plateau (top portion) from a slope to stabilize the joint at a flat level. The femur won’t slide from the slope when your dog puts weight on its leg. Screws and plates hold the tibial plateau in place.

Recovery Period  

golden retriever wears custom dog knee brace

Every pet has a different recovery period. Of course, a dog or cat might recover slower than others when your surgeon finds severe damage to the cruciate ligament. In addition, other factors can affect the recovery period, such as your pet’s weight and the surgical approach.  

But generally, the expected recovery time is between 4 and 6 weeks. Your dog can resume routine activities in 8–12 weeks. Begin with short lead walks and gradually increase the length and frequency as the recovery weeks pass.

Here’s how pet owners can support their dogs and cats after cruciate ligament surgery: 

  • During recovery, pet owners must prepare a safe place where their dogs and cats can rest. 
  • They also need a harness, ramp, bedding, and ice and heat packs.
  • Follow the veterinarian’s pain medication advice.  
  • Limit your pet’s activity by allowing it to rest in an enclosed area such as its crate. 
  • Don’t allow your pet to run, jump, and play during recovery for faster healing. 
  • Because the movement becomes limited after the surgery, you can prevent boredom by giving your furry friend pet-friendly toys.  
  • Ensure proper nutrition by following the veterinarian’s expert advice. 
  • Keep the pet’s surgical wounds clean and change its dressings every two to three days.

Post-Surgical Assessment  

Two weeks following surgery, you’ll need to take your pet to the veterinarian so they can re-examine it. The veterinarian will assess the surgical wound for inflammation and remove the stitches if the healing process goes as expected.

Six weeks after the cruciate ligament surgery, the veterinarian will take X-rays to determine if the bone is healing properly. This procedure can also help check if the plates and screws are intact or in the proper position. 


The rehabilitation phase involves physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Both can help hasten your pet’s recovery. Moreover, rehab can help improve your pet’s long-term mobility.

Your vet will advise you on the perfect time to begin physical therapy. Most pets undergoing the modern surgical approach to repair the ruptured cranial cruciate ligament can recover fully. Therefore, they’ll be able to play and move around virtually pain-free.


Cruciate ligament injury can be excruciating to humans, which is certainly for dogs and cats. Therefore, surgical intervention is necessary to give them a chance to move freely and happily again. Bring your pet to the veterinary clinic immediately if your dog or cat shows signs of cranial cruciate ligament injury. Ensure that the veterinarian performs the more modern surgical approach to resolve the underlying cause of the knee problem. Hopefully, this blog post has helped shed light on what you need to know about this injury.

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