Injuries to the cranial cruciate ligament are now the most common cause of hind leg lameness in our dogs. As veterinarians, we always want to do what’s best for our patients. It’s often tough to know what is best when there isn’t enough data and reliable information to make solid recommendations. The cool thing is that there are always new studies that help us make better, more educated decisions.
For those of you that don’t know, the cranial cruciate ligament is a ligament within the knee (stifle). This provides stability to the knee and typically becomes damaged over time from run, stop turn activity.
It causes chronic discomfort until it tears completely, where we see reluctance to use the leg to any significant degree. The best treatment for a torn ACL is surgery. This is an expensive procedure and it is important to know what the benefits of surgery are.
A recent study published in the Journal of the AVMA took a look at treatment of overweight dogs treated for this injury with surgery and non-surgical treatment in addition to weight loss, physical therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Does My Dog Need Cruciate Surgery
Overweight dogs with CCLR treated via surgical and nonsurgical methods had better outcomes than dogs treated via nonsurgical methods alone. However, almost two-thirds of the dogs in the nonsurgical treatment group had a successful outcome at the 52-week evaluation time. Source
This study was helpful in two ways. The first was that dogs with surgery benefit significantly from other treatments in addition to the procedure itself. Overweight dogs are much more likely to tear a ligament in the knee. With post op treatment including physical therapy, weight loss and pain medication, dogs showed more improvement than with surgery alone.
The second point was that even without surgery, 2/3 of the patients showed a satisfactory outcome within a year. They, however were not as likely to improve as dogs that had surgery.
If your dog has a torn cruciate ligament, surgery with ancillary treatment is the best option. If surgery is not an option due to financial concerns, then medical management can be quite helpful in a majority of dogs.
I hope this information helps you explore all your options if your dog has a torn cranial cruciate ligament 🙂