Cruciate Ligament Damage

Cruciate Ligament Damage

The stifle (knee) joint is relatively unstable because there are no interlocking bones in the joint but rather the femur (upper leg bone) and tibia (one of two lower leg bones) are joined by several ligaments.

The Cruciate ligaments are two such structures and consist of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCl) and the Caudal Cruciate Ligament (CaCl). These ligaments cross over within the joint ensuring the two bones can only move within a limited area in relation to one another. This gives joint stability preventing the Tibia from sliding too far forward or too far backward in relation to the femur.

When one or other of these ligaments is damaged or ruptured the joint becomes unstable as the Tibia is able to move freely resulting in abnormal gait. This leads to stress being placed on the structures in and around the joint and causes tissue damage, inflammation, pain and difficulty weight bearing on the limb. If left untreated arthritic changes can start to occur quite quickly leading to long term lameness and pain. Surgical repair or TPLO is the usual procedure Vets will consider for such ruptures.

Possible causes:

Long-term degeneration where the fibres within the ligament weaken over time causes ruptures in the vast majority of dogs and whilst the precise cause is unknown it is thought that genetic factors play an important role with certain breeds being more predisposed than others .
Obesity or excess weight can be a cause as this places heavy loading on the knee joint. It can also slow the recovery time and make the other knee more prone to injury.

Other causes can be:

  • Acute trauma e.g. sudden twisting of the stifle as in exercise and ball games, or slipping on floor surfaces with little or no grip.
  • Old or past injuries or even muscle weakness
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Structural abnormality or conformation

What you may see:

  • Lameness and limping in the hind limbs
  • Swollen stifle joint
  • Unwillingness to bear weight on affected leg
  • Only allowing toes to be on the ground so leg held in semi-flexed position
  • Crying out in pain
  • Reduction in muscle mass around the knee
  • Sitting with affected leg out to side

Can canine massage help?

The answer is simply YES.

  • Massage can be extremely helpful post operative i.e. during recovery and rehabilitation as it helps speed up recovery time
  • It helps to reduce pain and encourage the dog to use its legs equally thus strengthening the muscles of the affected leg whilst minimizing the chance of damage to the good leg
  • Helps release tension in muscles that are compensating for the injury i.e. neck and shoulder muscles
  • Helps calm the autonomic nervous system thereby making the recovery period more comfortable