How to Help My Dog with a Painful Cruciate Ligament Injury

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Have you ever heard of a cruciate ligament injury or tear? I hadn’t until my dog was diagnosed with one. Needless to say, I had a lot of questions. What is a cruciate ligament? What are the symptoms? How do I know my dog has a cruciate ligament tear? How does it tear? What can be done about it? We always worry when our dog is injured, but when you are told the injury is something that sounds as serious as a cruciate ligament tear, the worry is more intense.

What is a Cruciate Ligament?

 According to WebMD, a cruciate ligament, or CCL, is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs. It is similar to the ACL in humans. The CCL is a group of ligaments found inside the dog’s knee. Its purpose is to keep the knee from overextending or twisting. However, a tear or other injury to the CCL is extremely painful and can result in mobility issues, a serious problem for your dog.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of a torn CCL depend on the severity of the injury. They range from the dog limping slightly to being unable to put weight on the leg. Swelling is also possible with this type of injury.

How is it Diagnosed?

A veterinarian uses several tests to diagnose a cruciate ligament injury, such as the “drawer sign”. With this test, the vet holds the dog’s femur in place. If the tibia can be moved forward in a way that mimics a drawer sliding open, the CCL is torn. Unfortunately, your dog could still have a CCL injury even if the drawer sign fails to indicate a tear. X-rays of the dog’s knee and a complete physical exam are needed to determine the cause of your dog’s lame condition. The X-ray will show the existence of fluid or bone fragments that can occur with a ligament rupture.

What are the Causes?

Age is a factor in a cruciate ligament injury. As a dog ages, the cruciate ligaments degenerate and weaken. This causes an unstable joint that when not corrected results in a torn or ruptured ligament. Arthritis also places stress on the cruciate ligament and weakens them.

In younger dogs, an injury to the CCL is possible with strenuous activity such as jumping or turning sharply. Just like an ACL in humans playing sports games, the injury can still occur even if the CCL is healthy.

Another cause for a CCL injury is your dog’s weight. A dog carrying extra weight adds stress to the ligament. So maintaining a healthy weight in your dog is crucial to the health of the CCL.

What is the Treatment?

Treatment for this injury varies with the severity. If left untreated, a minor tear or rupture will heal on its own usually within three to six weeks. Even though it can heal on its own, it is still very painful for your dog. With an unhealthy CCL, the bones in the knee rub together leading to bone spurs, pain, arthritis, and mobility issues. This problem is more prevalent in medium-sized to large dogs.

Non-surgical treatment for a cruciate ligament injury is typical for dogs weighing less than 30 pounds. Treatment includes rest and anti-inflammatory medications for a couple of months. This is followed by exercise therapy and includes a weight loss program if your dog is obese. But without surgery, degenerative changes will still be present.

Surgery for this injury includes several different techniques to stabilize the CCL. Regardless of the technique used, it will take two to three weeks before your dog’s injured leg can bear weight. Restrict exercise for at least eight weeks. It is very important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations during the healing process and to keep your dog as comfortable as possible.

Pain Management of a Cruciate Ligament Injury

Prescription medication is typical for pain with this type of injury. Icing the area, especially with swelling, helps to relieve pain.

Laser Therapy: For Faster, Easier Recovery

But then there’s laser therapy. It encourages faster, easier recovery of your dog’s cruciate ligament injury.

The Spectra Therapy CANINE Wearable LASERwrap® is a natural, holistic option for pain management and healing. And it’s convenient. You can use it at home. Hauling your dog into town for laser therapy sessions isn’t necessary.

How does it work? The Spectra Therapy Canine Wearable LASERwrap® promotes healing by:

  • Improving circulation
  • Promoting your dog’s natural healing abilities
  • Providing nutrients and oxygen to improve healing on a cellular level
  • Improving ATP (low blood platelet levels) to help repair fibrous tissues
  • Allowing a thorough and faster healing process. It can cut recovery time by two to three weeks.

An injury to the CCL can be life changing and painful for your dog. Proper medical treatment and pain management is key to a full recovery. Eliminating the need for prescription medications with a cruciate ligament injury not only encourages natural healing, it also allows your family pet to regain full mobility.

Please share your thoughts and comments below. If you have any immediate needs or questions, call us at (248) 524-6300 today.

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