top of page

Cruciate Ligament Injury/CCL

Rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (or CCL, commonly referred to as the ACL) is the most common cause of hind limb lameness in dogs.  This creates instability within the knee joint, leading to an impaired ability to bear weight as well as arthritic change over time.  Arthritic change is directly related to the instability created and subsequent cartilage damage that occurs as bones rub against each other.  The cruciate ligament can rupture due to a traumatic event, however quite often genetics plays a large role in dogs.  It has been shown that the cruciate ligament can slowly degenerate over time (think of fibres in a rope slowly fraying) and that certain breeds, or dogs within a family line, seem to have a higher incidence of injury.


Rupture of the cruciate ligament can be devastating and very often requires surgical correction to allow faster return to function, weight bearing, and to slow the progression of arthritis.  The choice of treatment quite often involves considering the size and age of the dog, as well as their activity level.  In general, large breed dogs almost always require surgery and the surgery of choice is more involved (a procedure called a TPLO).  Some medium breed and small breed dogs can also do quite well with a procedure called an "extracapsular repair".


In individual cases, surgery is not always required and adequate healing can be achieved with strict rest and anti-inflammatories.  A thorough discussion with your veterinarian will help determine the course of action that may be best for you and your pet.   

Possible Signs of a CCL Rupture:

  • Hindlimb lameness ranging from mild to unable to weight bear

  • Thickening of the knee joint (due to inflammation)

cruciate ligament repair
torn cruciate ligament

Key Points:

  • CCL rupture is one of the most common orthopedic problems seen in dogs

  • Signs can range from mild hindlimb lameness to non-weight bearing, and can be slow in onset or very sudden

  • Approximately 50% of dogs that rupture their CCL will go on to develop the same condition in their other leg

  • Genetics and trauma are the two main factors in CCL rupture

  • Treatment is almost always surgical

Additional Resources:


American College of Veterinary Surgeons CCL info sheet - click here

bottom of page