Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease

What is the cranial cruciate ligament?

The cranial (or anterior) cruciate ligament is contained within the knee/stifle joint. This ligament prevents forward thrust of the tibia (shin bone).

Ligament Rupture

Unlike humans who’s CCLs tend to rupture due to undue strain such as in sports injuries.

In contrast, canine cruciate rupture is a degenerative change causing wear to the ligament – age, obesity, physical condition, genetics, conformation and breed are all predisposing factors.

Results Of Rupture

Cruciate ligament rupture is the most common cause of hindlimb lameness, pain and subsequent stifle arthritis in dogs. Cruciate ligament rupture is rare in cats.

The ligament can be degenerative for a long period of time before it can acutely rupture under strain, such as running.

There can also be damage to the medial meniscus which is the shock absorber for the joint, as the tibia will thrust forward every time the dog walks.


There are a number of treatment options available for treatment. Most commonly, this will involve surgery. Surgery is aimed at either replacing the broken ligament or changing the dynamics of the joint so the ligament is no longer needed and repairing any meniscal damage that may occur.

Occasionally, conservative management by restriction of movement, anti-inflammatories, pain killers and joint supplements may be effective as treatment but is usually reserved for dogs under 20kg and who are able to be confined easily.

Weight loss, exercise and therapeutics such as Cartrophen® are recommended as prescribed by the veterinarian.