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The cruciate ligaments are ligaments in the knee joint (also called the stifle in dogs). They firmly stabilize the tibia (the smallest bone in the leg) to the femur (the most prominent bone in the leg). They are inside the joint and therefore are crossed.

What is a cruciate ligament rupture?

There are two cruciate ligaments: the anterior ligament and the posterior ligament. During physical activity, they are tense and avoid twisting the knee. The one that has the most critical role in the anterior ligament. Thanks to its presence, the tibia cannot move forward: it avoids the drawer effect.

In the event of cruciate ligament rupture, it is, therefore, the anterior ligament that is most often affected. All dogs can have this kind of rupture, but the risk is greater on large dogs or obese dogs.

The causes

A rupture can be the result of twisting the animal’s leg or running over uneven ground.

Some dogs may have it due to a degenerative disease that progressively weakens the joints, such as osteoarthritis.

Neutering male dogs increases the risk of cruciate ligament rupture.


When a dog has a ruptured ligament, it can be noticed immediately because he is limping. Furthermore, the pain is visible because it is solid. The animal should therefore be taken directly to the veterinarian. Indeed, an untreated ligament rupture can lead to complications.

The vet can see the rupture directly because the knee is swollen, and its instability is evident. Then, additional examinations such as MRI or CT scan can be performed.

What to do in case of ruptured cruciate ligaments?

Several solutions are possible. For some dogs, it is advised not to operate. But not all specialists agree on this solution because the recovery is very long, and the cure is uncertain.

There are several surgical solutions:

Synthetic prosthesis: This is an operation performed on small dogs. This prosthesis replaces the cruciate ligament.

Fascia lata: The fascia lata is a membrane of the thigh muscle. A band is removed and grafted to replace the ligament.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO): This is the surgery that is recommended for large dogs. In this case, we do not touch the defective ligament.

The tibia is sectioned (osteotomy) to change its slope. It varies from an oblique slant to a horizontal gradient. We then put a plate to consolidate everything.

The convalescence period

After the operation, during the period of healing, the dog should not exert any physical effort. In addition, he must always be kept on a leash during walks.

If the dog is obese, it is advisable to put him on a diet. This is because an animal that is very overweight may be susceptible to another ligament rupture on another knee.


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