Cruciate ligament tear (knee)

Torn ligament in the knee joint

A cruciate ligament tear, a torn ligament in the knee similar to an ACL tear in people, can cause a variety of symptoms in pets. Signs may include:

  • Lameness: Sudden onset of limping or favoring one back leg
  • Difficulty in rising: Trouble getting up or stiffness after rest
  • Swelling: Noticeable swelling around the knee joint
  • Decreased activity level: Reluctance to engage in physical activities or exercise
  • Pain or discomfort: Vocalizing or showing signs of pain when using the affected leg
  • Unstable gait: Shifting weight to the unaffected leg or bunny hopping
  • Muscle atrophy: Wasting or loss of muscle mass in the affected leg over time
  • Joint instability: Instability or "giving way" of the knee joint during movement

Other health conditions may share similar symptoms with a cruciate ligament tear, including Arthritis, Hip Dysplasia, or other injuries to the leg or knee.

If you notice any of these signs or have concerns about your pet's health, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian. Early detection and intervention can improve the chances of successful management and prevent complications.

When you visit your veterinarian for concerns related to a cruciate ligament tear, the following may occur:

  • Medical History: They will take a detailed medical history, including any signs and their duration.
  • Physical examination: The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your pet, paying special attention to the affected leg and knee. They will check for any abnormalities, joint instability, or pain response. Sedation may be needed to adequately assess the extent of the disease and alleviate any discomfort.
  • Diagnostic testing: Diagnostic testing such as X-rays or blood work (to prepare for medications) may be recommended to evaluate the presence and extent of the cruciate ligament tear. These tests help assess the severity and determine the best treatment approach.
  • Treatment options: Treatment options for a cruciate ligament tear can vary depending on the severity, your pet's breed, size, age, and activity level. It may involve conservative management (rest, physical therapy, pain management), or surgical intervention to stabilize the knee joint and restore function.
  • Advanced treatment options: Referral to a veterinary surgeon may be considered for specialized surgery and the most advanced techniques.
  • Physical therapy and exercise: Physical therapy, including controlled exercise, hydrotherapy, and rehabilitation techniques, can help improve mobility, strengthen muscles, and relieve pain.
  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for pets with cruciate ligament tears. Your veterinarian may provide guidance on a balanced diet and portion control to help manage your pet's weight.
  • Environmental modifications: Making changes to your pet's environment, such as providing comfortable bedding, ramps or stairs for easier access, and non-slip surfaces, can help reduce joint stress.
  • Follow-up care: Your veterinarian will discuss a follow-up plan, which may involve post-operative care if surgery is performed or a rehabilitation plan if conservative management is chosen. Regular monitoring and re-evaluation of your pet's progress will be recommended, especially with a heightened risk of tearing the other knee’s cruciate ligament in the following 12-18 months.

Your veterinary healthcare team will partner with you to decide which treatment option is best for your pet's and your family’s specific condition and situation.

While it may not be possible to prevent a cruciate ligament tear entirely, there are things you can do at home to help reduce the risk or maintain your pet's overall joint health:

  • Weight management: Maintain a healthy body weight for your pet to minimize stress on the joints and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Exercise moderation: Avoid excessive high-impact activities or abrupt changes in exercise intensity. Gradual conditioning and appropriate exercise can help prevent injuries.
  • Provide joint support: Consult with your veterinarian about supplements or diets that support joint health, as they may be beneficial for certain pets based on their individual needs.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your pet's overall health, including joint health, and detect any potential issues early on.

Consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance on preventing a cruciate ligament tear in your pet. They can provide tailored recommendations based on your pet's specific needs and medical history.

Please note that the information provided here is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your pet has a cruciate ligament tear or any other health concerns, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$4,734

You pay only

$473

Cruciate ligament tear (knee)

You save

$4,261

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$4,734

You pay only

$473

Cruciate ligament tear (knee)

You save

$4,261

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.

Nationwide® pet insurance claim example

Veterinary bill

$4,734

You pay only

$473

Cruciate ligament tear (knee)

You save

$4,261

Example reflects Accident & Illness plan with optional Congenital & Hereditary rider as well as the optional Cruciate rider added after the first year of coverage, with unlimited annual limit for each category with 90% reimbursement after the $250 annual deductible has been met. This plan may not be available in all areas. Pre-existing conditions are not covered. Veterinary bill amount is based on expenses incurred in the first 30 days after initial diagnosis.