Cruciate ligament injuries are a common type of dog injury, that can be caused by a sudden wrong movement such as jumping, skidding, falling, or twisting their leg awkwardly. It can also happen when the cruciate ligament begins to wear down, often with age. It can be a very painful injury for dogs, putting them out of action for a while.
Recognising a cruciate ligament injury, and how to help your dog can help you give them the best care if needed. Take a look at some common questions about cruciate ligaments in dogs.
What is a dog’s cruciate ligament?
The cruciate ligaments are the ligaments that support a dog’s knee. Once damaged, your dog’s knee can become very painful and common activities become difficult.
Cruciate ligament disease is a term that refers to the breakdown of the ligament, but research is ongoing into why this happens. As the injury can be sudden or due to the wearing down of the ligament over time, it could happen to your dog at any stage of their life.
Signs of a cruciate ligament in injury in dogs
A sudden impact can immediately cause your dog to yelp and start limping, which could signal an injury. Some key signs to look out for include:
- Difficulty or stiffness standing up and sitting down
- Swelling around the back of the leg
- Pain in the knee
- Walking differently to normal
If your dog is limping, you should contact your vet immediately who will be able to examine your dog and confirm the diagnosis. The vet will check the area for signs of damage and then carry out some x-rays too.
Treating a cruciate ligament injury
There are different ways a cruciate ligament injury can be treated, and your vet will be able to advise on the best action to take. Smaller dogs (under 10kg) can usually be treated without surgery, and will involve resting your dog, providing pain medication and possibly providing support for the knee. If your dog is overweight, there will need to be some action taken to get them to a healthy weight.
Dogs who need cruciate ligament surgery will need a lot of rest in the weeks following their injury, gradually introducing movement when it is safe to do so.
Caring for your dog after their injury
After your dog has had treatment for a cruciate ligament injury, their aftercare will be crucial to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You’ll need to maintain regular but sensible exercise, stopping them from jumping and running around.
Regular checks with your vet can help monitor your dog’s progress.
Preventing cruciate ligament disease
It can be difficult to prevent cruciate ligament disease but there are some things you can do to help your dog.
Firstly, it’s important that your dog maintains a healthy weight. Excess weight can put a strain on your dog’s joints. Talk to your vet about a nutrition programme that can help them lose weight.
With puppies, you should take your time building up the distance and time that you walk them. Walking too much too soon can affect their joints in future, while smaller and stockier dogs might only ever walk short distances.
There are some breeds that are more prone to cruciate ligament disease than others, including Rottweilers, Labradors, and other larger dogs. Monitor your dog closely for signs of injury or wear and take steps to prevent an injury from occurring.
A dog that’s developed a cruciate ligament injury in one leg is likely to do so in another, so make sure you follow some of the guidance above and keep a close eye on your dog for injuries. It’s also likely that they’ll develop arthritis in the area. Joint care is important for your dog, and there may be supplements or changes you can make to your dog’s diet to support their joints. You can learn more about arthritis treatments for dogs to help you give them the care they need.
Dogs can suffer from all kinds of injuries. They’re energetic in nature and like to run around, which can sometimes land them in trouble. While a cruciate ligament injury could happen quickly, you can help slow down cruciate ligament disease with the right kind of activity and monitoring them regularly for signs of a problem. If you’re in doubt or you have concerns, make sure you contact your vet.
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