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Cruciate Injury FAQs

What does it mean when your dog has injured their cruciate or ACL?

The cruciate ligament is a very important structure in the knee. The cruciate ligament is deep in the middle of the knee joint and keeps the knee stable. If the cruciate ligament is strained it can cause pain and swelling of the knee. If the cruciate ligament is torn,the knee joint becomes unstable causing significant lameness and often pain. 

How do we diagnose a cruciate injury?

A cruciate injury will cause either sudden onset lameness of a back leg or chronic pain of a back leg centred on the knee. Your veterinarian will palpate the entire back leg. When examining the knee (or stifle) there may be pain or swelling in the joint. The cruciate ligament is stressed by extension of the knee and a cruciate stability test will be part of the veterinary examination.

To get a clear diagnosis your dog is anaesthetised and the joint is palpated looking for changes in stability. Xrays of the knee are taken under a general anaesthetic. These xrays may show a joint effusion as well as a change in position of the tibial fat pad.

How do we treat a cruciate ligament strain?

If there is pain in the knee but no instability, your veterinarian may diagnose a cruciate strain. Strains may be treated with rest and anti-inflammatories. However, many dogs with cruciate strains will start to develop ongoing arthritic changes. To avoid the development of osteoarthritis it is often better to opt for a surgical approach to a dog with on going cruciate strain even if there is no instability.

How do we treat a cruciate tear?

A knee with a torn cruciate will usually be unstable. The ligament that stabilises the knee is damaged and will never regenerate. This torn ligament will also cause an ongoing arthritic process in the knee. Surgery on the knee is by far the best option for any dog that has a torn cruciate ligament. If your dog has a torn cruciate ligament it is best to consult one of our very experienced veterinarians. At Pittwater Animal Hospital Dr Heidi Furber and Dr Jill King have a special interest in the treatment and management of cruciate disease. They can advise you about further diagnostics, management and treatment for the cruciate injury.

What does cruciate surgery mean?

At Pittwater Animal Hospital we offer the best level of care for cruciate injuries. This is; to have surgery with a specialist surgeon followed by intensive after-care and rehab.

Your dog will have an initial general anaesthetic with palpation and an xray series of the knee. The knee will be fully assessed then the specialist surgery will be scheduled. Once your dog recovers from surgery and is discharged the rehab plan begins. The full costing of surgery, aftercare and rehab is supplied and discussed before your pet’s procedure.

Smaller animals may able to be treated with a non-specialist cruciate surgery. This is cost saving and still includes rehab and after-care. Dr Heidi Furber and Dr Jill King can discuss the pros and cons of the non-specialist procedure.

What happens if you can’t afford cruciate surgery?

Without surgery, a dog with an unstable cruciate will always have a problem knee. Sometimes due to financial constraints or other health problems, surgery is not an option. In these cases Dr Heidi Furber or Dr Jill King can start your pet on an intensive protective plan to manage the injured knee. It will be very important to protect the other knee as often a dog that injures one cruciate ligament will damage the other knee. 

What do you do if you are worried about cruciate disease in your dog?

Please book an appointment with Dr Heidi Furber or Dr Jill King to discuss your individual dog’s problem. In this appointment they will go through all the possible treatment options and tailor a plan that is best for you and your pet.

More information about specialist cruciate surgery