Treating a Torn/Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) (Crucial Ligament) in Dogs (ACL)

I noticed that I was receiving a lot of searches for Cranial Crucial Ligament, that’s why it’s in the title. The proper term is Cranial Cruciate Ligament, however I thought I’d try to help out all the people who were searching for Crucial Ligament. Just acting as the Good Samaritan of the internet! Thanks to all the response I’ve gotten, I now have a dedicated site for this topic – visit Dog Knee Ligament Injuries.

So we were out at the beach the other day, and our dog Roxy (a 5 1/2 year old American Pit Bull Terrier) came up limping. She’s had slight hip problems in the past, so we took her home, let her rest and decided to see how she was doing the following day. The following day was the same, rear leg just dangling, unable to put any pressure on it, so we took her into the “Doggie ER”. Side note – if your dog isn’t suffering from a life threatening condition, don’t bother with a Pet Emergency Clinic – you’ll see why. At the ER, they decided to give her X-Rays to see if her ligament was torn – those of you who have ever done ligament damage to yourself probably realize that ligaments cannot be seen in X-Rays, you need an MRI for that! So in addition to X-Rays ($400) our dog had to be sedated, so that the doctor could “aggressively manipulate the joint” to test for instability… can we do this in the first place next time??? Anyways, the conclusion at the ER was that the dog had ruptured her Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL, or the doggie ACL) and we were then advised to take our dog to its primary care veterinarian in 1-3 days. We unfortunately didn’t have a primary care vet, but we came across a local clinic that has a specialist fly in once a month to perform CCL surgeries, and it was our lucky day, because the day that we took our dog in, the doctor had another “patient” cancel, so he had one opening and he performed the surgery yesterday, and I picked our dog up today. I’ll follow this article up with updates on the dogs status & treatment, but for the time being, I’ve put together some information below about CCL injuries and surgical repair procedures.

Continue reading here.

65 thoughts on “Treating a Torn/Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) (Crucial Ligament) in Dogs (ACL)”

  1. Hi, I have a 2 year old GermanShepherd Mix that had CCL on April 15th. He has done great so far, until yesterday our 6 month old got out of her cage while we were gone all day. He is hardly putting any weight on it today. Does anyone know the odds that he may have torn it again? I cried myself to sleep last night because he has to go through all of this and I know it’s killing his heart…

  2. Hi Jodi-

    We had a couple scares during the recovery of our dog as our puppy kept wanting to play with her. I’m sure everything will be okay, but you’ll want to check with your vet just to be sure. You should also check out this site that I’ve created for extra information: Dog Knee Ligament Injuries as there is a lot of helpful information there.

    Best of luck with your dog!

  3. We have a 14 1/2 year old lab mix that had this surgery 4 years ago. She did quite well however the recovery period was brutal. She was not crate trained therefore there was no way of keeping her in one. The stress it caused her was not worth it. Now, she has injured the other leg and I’m afraid she is too old for surgery. The vet put her on some meds (tramydal, derramax) and see how she is doing after a week. Her blood work is perfect for a dog so old so it really makes me sick that she has injured the other leg. I don’t want her to be in too much pain but how is anyone to know really how much pain they are in from this injury?

  4. My little Penny (6 year old Jack Russell) had her repair one week ago today. She is doing great for the most part. REALLY hard to keep her calm though. I am just looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and the return of our Sunday walks with the other Jack, Hunter.

  5. My husky Lakoda went thru the surgery last April of 2008 and she is doing really good. I was hoping that we would get thru the year period so that she would not do the 2nd knee. But so far so good. Both knees seem to be healthy. I still try not to let her jump too much. But it really helps giving her a dog food with gloucosaime in it.


  6. Hi everyone, great site with alot of love and support for our “babies” . We have a beautiful Husky, Bandit who now is 1 month shy of 15. He has been spoiled rotten his entire life and would not change 1 second of it. He torn his ACL when he was 13, and we were not financial/ or mentally prepared. We felt 13 was too old to put him through such pain, we decided to REST, REST, and more rest, which isnt easy for a HUSKY!! well, he healed up , he hoped on 3 legs for quite a while (6-8 mo.) then something really strange happened- he got an ear infection, was put on antibiotics- and PRESTO!! 3 days after starting meds- he starting walking on all fours, and within a few days was RUNNING!! (Maybe it was all the praying I was doing) but I dont think it was a coincidence- Vet said MAY have been in infection in the bone?????well- he injured his GOOD leg and is now going through the same ordeal as 2 yrs ago except he is older and a bit heavier. we have decided NOT to do surgery as for the same reasons as before HE is 15, that is old for a big dog!!! I will not put him through that. WE LOVE HIM TOO MUCH !!he is our life, seriously this dog rules us. He makes us laugh everyday. he is moody just like people. he has been with me through surgeries and my mom’s unexpected death. He is everything to us. I give him gluclosimine and metacam ( liquid) he HATES taking meds!!! but he sees happy go lucky, and we only walk him short distances BUT spend alot of time just laying around with him- and he loves that!! wish us luck.

  7. I have read a lot of the previous emails from people. Our cairn terrier is nearly 11 years old. Like the above message, he is our life. I raised him and his brother and watched them being born. Sadly, their mother, Nessie, died over 2 years ago, still sadly missed. Rufus started limping about 3 months ago, took him to the vet and she said it was the ligament. All my closest friends and daughter in America say not to have the operation. He had a stroke about 6 months ago and is on Karsivan tablets for life and now is on Rimaldyl anti-inflamatory pill for life. We are just hoping he will improve. He cannot go on long walks any more and it is sad for all of us. Bruce his brother, doesn’t get as many long woods walks anymore and we cannot take Rufus (the one suffering with the bad ligament. We are hoping that he might improve a little but feel that he will have to live with the leg problem and we will just let him live his life out as best as possible. Does anybody have any comments on this. We live in Spain at the moment and have been told about a dog surgeon that does perform the ligament surgery but don’t want to put him through the stress of the operation and to contain him for 3 months would be very hard. Thanks for any comments.

  8. i have a 12 week old pup yip pup…
    pedegree bullterrier with a torn ligament to date were at pain meds lots visits to our awesome vet and 1/2 ml pain meds via his food….
    i couldnt be more devo at the out come but my little man runs like he chaseing a rabbit and just cant seem to relise to slow down till he falls asleep so for the next few weeks its rest and toes and fingers crossed as no surgery can be done as he growing so fast so we have to wait till he fully grown ………

  9. Hello! We have two Great Danes that we love dearly. Our youngest will be getting CCL surgery within the week. Does anyone have any information on stairs after surgery…..will we need to carry him down or if we support him and help with his back legs will this be sufficient? Responses are appreciated!!

  10. It depends on the procedure. My labrador had the TTA procedure done three weeks ago. The orthopedic surgeon said she was allowed to go up and down a flight of stairs once a day. She also had to navigate two steps to leave and enter the house. She had no problems with that but the big flight of stairs were difficult for her at first. Three weeks later she is bearing full weight on the leg at times, walking almost normally, and has no problem with the stairs.

    With other procedures the dogs do not recover so quickly. A friend had the suturing technique done on her lab three weeks before my dog and she could not bear weight at all on that leg for the first week. They had to use a sling to support her back legs when she went outside and they kept her downstairs for the first month after surgery.

  11. My dog was just Dx with a ruptured CCL and here in Sacramento, CA at Banfield it is just 1800 for the surgery including the outside specialist fee and radiographs. I am very happy that I work for a vet hospital who can giv me a small discount (Banfield) I recommend to everyone to do the surgery and I hope for the best for all your pets. I also recommend VPI pet insurance. It covers the surgery and for 30 a month for my 4yr old aussie mix and it covers 89% of the cruciate bill. I wished I had this before she got hurt. Good Luck!

    BTW My Madie is getting surgery Friday :)

  12. Hi Dina –

    Good luck with the surgery. As far as the pet insurance goes, $30/mo is reasonable, but if you add that up over the course of the life of the dog, it may outweigh the benefit. For example, if your dog lives for 10 years (120 months X $30/month) $3,600 over the life of your dog. Now if you were to put $30/month in a savings account, you could earn interest, etc. and you’re not paying for something that you may not end up using.

    I’m not saying that I’m for/against pet insurance, just voicing the other side of the argument that I read on this site: dog knee surgery

  13. While it is true that it is hard to see the ligaments themselves on xray, what you can see is a displacement of the bones and other normal structures when the cranial cruciate ligament is ruptured. Xray also has the advantage of determining if it is not a ligament tear, and is perhaps a bone fracture or degenerative arthritis in the joint. The motion test that is done with sedation can then confirm the ligament tear. We would not want to wrench around a poor dog’s joint if we do not suspect a tear, or worse, if there is a fracture present. This is why we do xrays first! It is just good medicine, though I’ll admit, awfully expensive.

  14. i just want to let you know that you were very helpful. now the sad thing now is that i dont have the money to get the sugery< me and my 2 kids are going to set up jars and see what we can raise. we love our pit bull terrier< her name is ladie< so if you could please say a prayer for her to get better

  15. Hello everyone, I thought i’d chime in with a product we found that helped our dog called the A-traC Dynamic brace. We purchased the A-Trac Dynamic Brace after our Retriever mix tore his CCL. His tear happened late November 2010, and with holiday travels we did not want to have surgery until the start of 2011. The A-Trac brace was easy to use and allowed our dog to have good mobility and reduced overall stress prior to surgery. After surgery we continued to use the A-Trac Dynamic Brace and had great results. Our dog was able to bare weight on his left leg within a few days and was able to move with minimal effort within the week. The brace contributed to a quick recovery, and minimized right leg stress.

    Take a look at and call Dr. Spatt. He is very helpful and knowledgeable. The service is great!

    – Samantha

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