Dealing With Cruciate Ligament Ruptures in Dogs

Dealing With Cruciate Ligament Ruptures in Dogs

Here is a radiograph of one of our patients post-op.

The cruciate ligaments consist of two groups of fibrous tissue that crossover and are positioned between each knee joint. These ligaments connect the femur and tibia, ensuring that the knee operates as a stable hinged joint. In dogs, these ligaments are referred to as the cranial and caudal cruciate ligaments. One of the most common injuries in dogs is a cruciate ligament rupture (CLR). A cruciate ligament rupture is an extremely painful injury that occurs when the knee joint becomes unstable due to trauma or degeneration of the ligaments within your dog’s joints resulting in lameness. Continue reading for what you need to know about the diagnosis, surgery, and recovery of a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO).


Cruciate ligament ruptures are typically diagnosed through a lameness examination by a veterinarian. If a ruptured cruciate ligament is suspected, we will sedate your dog for a more thorough examination as well as radiographs. During the sedated exam, our veterinarian will try to demonstrate a cranial or anterior drawer sign. This particular movement is an abnormal forward movement of your dog’s tibia in front of the femur, indicating laxity in the knee joint. Radiographs will show the inflammation and effusion, or fluid, surrounding the knee. These radiographs will also be used by the surgeon to ensure they are utilizing the proper equipment.


When your dog ruptures their cruciate ligament, surgery is usually required to stabilize the knee joint. We typically recommend surgery be performed quickly to reduce and prevent permanent, irreversible joint damage and relieve pain. Currently, there are several surgical techniques used to fix a cruciate ligament rupture. Each procedure has its advantages and potential drawbacks. The most commonly performed surgical repair of a ruptured cruciate is the Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). This surgery reduces the amount the tibia can shift forward by realigning the tibia to an angle similar to what would have been present prior to the injury. The tibia is then stabilized with a surgical plate so it can heal in the position the surgeon has set it to. Our veterinarians can guide you through the decision-making process, advising you on the best surgical options for your pet.


After surgery, it’s important that your dog has a limited activity for six to eight weeks to ensure recovery. Practicing proper home care and physical therapy will also ensure good function returns to your dog’s limb within three months. You will need to bring your dog back to have surgical staples removed after two weeks. At this time, our veterinarian will assess your dog’s healing and review home care with you. Eight weeks after surgery, you will return for another evaluation with our veterinarian. Your dog will also have their first session in our underwater treadmill to start the physical therapy and muscle strengthening portion of healing. At twelve weeks post surgery, your dog will come in for one more visit with the veterinarian for a radiograph. The surgeon will review the radiograph to determine that the tibia has fully healed, and activity restrictions can safely be lifted.

Under Water Treadmill (UWT)

Underwater treadmill is an effective therapy for animals with various conditions. It’s a comfortable method for dogs to recover in a relaxed and quiet environment. Underwater treadmills help to improve your dog’s range of motion, stretches muscles, strengthen muscles, and boost endurance. Water temperatures range from 92 to 95 degrees, ultimately increasing your dog’s flexibility and reducing their pain. The water level and speed for underwater treadmills are personalized to accommodate pets’ needs as they progress and recover from their injury.

At-home Physical Therapy

  • Back Steps: This exercise requires your dog to take steps going slowly and gently forward and backward.
  • Side Steps: Side steps is an exercise that requires your dog to take steps to the side both to the left and right. This exercise focuses on strengthening the front and rear legs and body awareness. It’s meant to be slow and controlled, so you may need to guide your dog during this exercise.
  • Sit/Down/Stand Transitions: This exercise focuses on precise positions, requiring your standing dog to bring their rear legs forward to sit without moving their front legs.
  • Weight Shifting: This exercise requires your dog to maintain a standing position using strength, coordination, and balance. Support your dog as needed, and gently push them off balance from side to side and back to front.
  • Walking: Walking should be slow, controlled, and leashed. Slow walking encourages your dog to bear more weight while balancing. As walking progresses, you can extend the time and frequency, allowing your dogs to walk more on various surfaces.
  • Stretching: This exercise requires you to stretch your dog’s injured limb so that they’ll gradually gain more flexibility and extension.
  • Circles (Spins): Circles are slow and controlled exercises that require your dog to spin both clockwise and counterclockwise.
  • Massages: Massages help stimulate your dog’s blood flow while preventing scar tissue within muscles.

TPLO Surgery at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital

We are excited to announce that Dr. McGee is now performing TPLO surgeries right here at MCAH! Any of our veterinarians can diagnose your dog’s ruptured cruciate, Dr. McGee can perform the corrective surgery, and we can help your dog recover in our underwater treadmill. We can take care of your dog and their ruptured cruciate from start to finish all while remaining under the care of the veterinarians you know and trust!

Here at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, We’ll Treat Your Pets Like Family!

Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, March 11th, 2022 at 10:16 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.