Cruciate Ligaments

July 10, 2017


You may have heard of the term cruciate tear or partial cruciate tear, but what is a cruciate anyway? Let’s get to the anatomy bit first.

A dog’s knee is called its stifle, equvilant to the human knee. The stifle joint joins to two bones: the femur and tibia. Ligaments provide stability to this joint.


Two of these ligaments are attached in a crosswise fashion. These ligaments act together with two outer bands of fibrous ligament, the lateral collateral ligaments, and the kneecap to maintain the dog’s knee stability through a wide range of motion.


Dogs can suffer torn cruciates due to sport for example catching ball and jumping, however we are now seeing a large number of cruciate tears from overweight, neutered middle aged dogs.


We used to think that cruciate concerns appeared rapidly – after a sudden twisting movement or due to jumping. Evidence has now shown that these ligaments may tear after the dog’s joint becomes inflamed - rather than becoming inflamed because of a torn ligament.


Whatever the cause or causes, something more than a simple accident is usually occurring because it is common for the pet's second knee to go out sometime after the first.


Signs of cruciate ligament injury in dogs

Cruciate ligament disease usually occurs in two forms.


The first, chronic form, occurs in dogs with mild ongoing lameness, which can resolve with bed rest and pain relief.


The second, acute form, occurs in dogs with sudden onset lameness. These injuries are often more painful.


Signs of cruciate damage

  • limping

  • non weight bearing

  • reluctance by your dog to walk or exercise

  • noticeable reduction of muscle mass around the knee

  • whimpering, yelping or crying when the dog's bearing weight on the affected leg


How the cruciate is diagnosed

The dog will need veterinary and veterinary nurse assistance in radiographs of the affected knee. Due to the severity of the pain, the dog will need to be sedated whilst the radiographs are being performed.  As affected animals are often very sore, sedation or anaesthesia is required to examine the knee thoroughly.



Surgery is the preferred method which involves inspecting and cleaning the joint, removing any damaged cartilage and placing an artificial ligament. If the dog doesn't have the surgery performed then arthritis will develop and a permanent limp is not uncommon.



  • Cruciate ligament disease appears more common in middle aged, female dogs.

  • In giant breeds, cruciate ligament disease tends to appear at a younger age.

  • In small breeds, cruciate ligament disease tends to appear at an older age.



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