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Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury:
Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury is the most common orthopedic problem seen in dogs.  The underlying predisposition for developing an injury of the CCL may be related to excessive weight (genetic or overfeeding), genetic conformational abnormalities, excessive activity, or chronic joint disease.  The injury seems to occur more frequently in larger dogs than in small dogs or cats but can occur in all of these groups.
The stifle (knee) joint in the dog and cat as well as in humans, has two cruciate ligament inside the knee joint itself.  These ligaments are called the cranial (anterior) and caudal (posterior) cruciate ligaments.  The cranial ligament is most often torn while the caudal cruciate is rarely affected.  The CCL is torn usually due to excessive internal rotation with the knee in slight extension.
Usually the injury happens during some kind of exercise like running, chasing, or playing fetch.  Commonly the pet is fine and then suddenly lets out a "yelp" and is immediately lame on the affected leg.  There are cases in which the ligament is only partially torn and the animal recovers for a period of time but most progress to complete tears.  When the CCL is torn, the knee loses stability allowing the tibia (shin bone) to move forward in relation to the femur (thigh bone).  This movement is called cranial tibial thrust.  If this situation is allowed to go on unchecked, significant arthritis will ensue and potentially tearing of the meniscal cartilages can occur.  It is for this reason that surgical stabilization of the stifle is the treatment of choice for this problem.
Post-operative Instructions after Cruciate Surgery:
  • Keep an eye on the incision.  Stainless steel staples are used to close the skin.  The incision should be clean and dry.  If you notice any oozing, bleeding (more than just spots of blood), swelling, or gapping in the incision, please call the hospital.
  • Do not allow the pet to lick the incision.  Skin staples and sutures can be irritating and itchy.  Keep the E-collar on at all times to insure that the pet can not reach it.  Licking can introduce bacteria and cause infection as well as cause the incision to open up.
  • Give pain medication.  The first 24 hours after surgery are the most painful.  Typically animals are prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (for pain and inflammation) and a pain medication.  Most often Novox and Tramadol respectively are prescribed.  Please give these medications as directed to make the post-operative period as comfortable as possible for your pet.
  • No off-leash activity for 8 weeks.  This is VERY IMPORTANT as this period of time is critical to the healing process.  This means that the pet should never be allowed to be off of a leash outside of the house and indoor activity should be kept to a minimum.  Leash walk to go to the bathroom only.  After the first 2-3 weeks, short leash walks (NO RUNNING) can begin in a controlled fashion.  Do not over do it!
  • Physical Therapy.  After the first 2 weeks you can begin doing light physical therapy with your pet.  Hold your pet's front legs off of the ground to encorage use of the hind legs.  Do this gently and in a controlled fashion for a few monutes each day.  Swimming is also good exercise that encourages use of the leg without putting a lot of stress on it.
  • Resume normal activity.  After 2 months you can allow the pet to begin regular off-leash activity.

*Please call (973) 764-3630 if you have any questions or concerns.*
347 Rt 94
Vernon, NJ 07462

(973) 764-3630
Small Animal & Exotic Medicine and Surgery