Ouch! My Aching Knee – Canine Cruciate Ligament Disease

It’s a beautiful sunny day, a great day to play.   The grass is green, the sky is blue, and I can feel the breeze flowing through my hair. It’s a great day to be a dog.

While chasing my favorite tennis ball, I take a sharp turn and feel a “pop”. A jolt of pain courses through my body as I hit the ground. I try to stand, but I’m in so much pain that I can barely place my foot on the ground.

Doc checks me out, takes an x-ray and says that I have torn my cranial cruciate ligament (similar to the ACL in people).

What is a cranial cruciate ligament?

The attached picture shows the cruciate ligaments in blue (cranial) and green (caudal). They are two small ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint, preventing the thigh bone from sliding too far forward over the shin bone as I walk.

How did I tear my ligament?

In most dogs, this is a chronic degenerative process where the ligament slowly breaks down over time. While I wasn’t showing symptoms of knee pain, my ligament was gradually tearing piece-by-piece. Certain breeds are genetically predisposed (i.e. Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Akitas, Staffordshire Terriers and Saint Bernards), but it can happen to any breed (including cats).

Doc points out that I’m a bit on the pudgy side and explained that obesity greatly contributed to this problem; but I’m honestly trying to lose weight. I swear I only eat one cup of food per day…….unless you’re counting the five bones, half of a hotdog, the occasional potato chip and pig’s ear that I get as treats.

Will I ever walk again?

Doc tells me that I will need surgery to fix the knee. I cringe at the very thought of surgery, but Doc explained that I will develop severe arthritis and live with chronic pain the rest of my life if I refuse to have surgery. She tried to explain the various different procedures to me, but it was all gibberish to me.

Sadly, I’m told that I also have a 40-60% chance of tearing the ligament in my other knee if I don’t make some life-style changes.

Can this disease be prevented?

Diet and low-impact exercise are the keys to success. My days of chasing after the tennis balls are over, but I can still go jogging and swimming. I’ve also traded in my dog bones for green beans and other healthy treats (sniff, sniff).

Eric Brooks, DVM

Stow Kent Animal Hospital

Portage Animal Clinic

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