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Cruciate Ligament Injuries on the increase - Prevention & Recovery

Cruciate ligament disease in dogs is a common problem facing many pet owners around Australia. Also known as cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture, this painful orthopaedic condition can see a sudden and debilitating onset that can be very expensive to treat. 

Pet Insurance Australia discovers what pet owners can do to prevent cruciate ligament problems and how to spot a problem in your dog. Plus, meet the adorable Hades and his loving pet parents, who know first-hand how quickly a CCL rupture can occur.

“Cruciate ligament issues can be excruciating for dogs and can lead to very expensive surgery and treatments to correct the problem,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. “Over the past five years, we have noticed the incidence of Cruciate Ligament complaints remaining stubbornly high, while the treatment costs continue to increase with the recent upsweep in inflation.”

Bad breeding, obesity, trauma, and other factors can increase your pet’s likelihood of suffering from Cruciate Ligament issues, with many pet owners not understanding the condition until it is too late.

“The cruciate ligament plays a vital role in the knee joint, known as the stifle joint,” Crighton says. “Dogs have two cruciate ligaments in each knee joint known as the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament.”

The cruciate ligaments stabilise the knee joints in dogs by preventing excessive forward or backward motions of the bones – the femur and tibia, or the thigh bone and the shine bone.

When a dog experiences cruciate ligament disease, be it a rupture or a partial tear, it can result in sudden instability of the knee joint, with the first symptom being a sudden onset of lameness and pain. In addition, the damage can cause those important bones inside the knee to move incorrectly, leading to other issues with the entire knee structure.

Neapolitan Mastiff on a walk
Photo: Anil Sharma (Pexels)
“It is known that certain breeds can be more prone to cruciate ligament problems due to genetic reasons,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says.
“Overweight pets are also at risk of developing issues with their cruciate ligaments, as to dogs that have suffered accidental trauma to the area.”

The rise in obesity rates in dogs is also a significant factor in the increase in cruciate ligament problems in dogs. Understanding that having an overweight pet can lead to additional stress being loaded onto the ligaments, making them much more susceptible to injury and degeneration. So, it is crucial that pet owners keep their dogs at their correct weight to help prevent problems.

Keeping your pet fit is also high on the agenda

Dogs that have limited movement or a solid exercise regime can also lead to a weakening of the ligament. However, even the fittest pets can still suffer from cruciate ligament issues.

“Common dog injuries can also cause cruciate ligament damage,” Crighton says. “Even a case of the zoomies causing a sharp, sudden twist or hyperextension of the knee joint that can lead to Cruciate Ligament rupture.”

Treatment typically involves surgery to stabilise the joint, alleviate pain while restoring normal function of the knee joint. There are different surgical techniques available in Australia.

“Cruciate ligament disease can be a very complex condition that will vary depending on your dog’s age, breed, size, and other factors,” Crighton says. “If you suspect your dog is suffering from a Cruciate Ligament issue, contact your veterinarian immediately to get a correct diagnosis and treatment plan for your dog’s specific needs and to prevent any future problems.”

Symptoms of Cruciate Ligament Problems include:

✔️ Lameness
✔️ Difficulty Standing/Jumping
✔️ Swelling
✔️ Joint Pain

Breeds Commonly Affected By Cruciate Ligament Problems:

Understanding cruciate ligament problems can affect any dog breed at any age is essential. However, according to data from Pet Insurance Australia, certain breeds have been noted to be more susceptible to suffering from these conditions, with one of the most popular cross breeds featuring high on the list, making education around this condition increasingly important.

1. Spoodle Cross

3. Labradoodle Cross

4. Mastiff Cross

5. Australian Cattle Dog

Hades' Story

Meet the beautiful six-year-old Hades, who had a terrible accident after heading out for a quick toilet break before bedtime.

“We first noticed a problem one night when Hades had been let outside just before bedtime,” says Daniel Gregory, Hades' loving pet parent. “My partner and I heard a yelp and went to the door to the backyard to see what was going on. We noticed Hades was limping; his left hind leg was tucked right up against his body, and he wasn't willing to put any weight on it.”

Daniel and his partner Dylan were worried about the situation and made an emergency call to the veterinarian for a check-up and booked the next available appointment.

“Our vet felt Hades' leg and said he suspected it could have been his cruciate ligament, but Hades' muscles were tense, and he couldn't diagnose it without sedating him. He also wanted to take an X-ray. So, he booked us in for the sedation and x-rays.”

Later that day, the news was confirmed—Hades needed urgent surgery to fix his damaged cruciate ligament.
“The total cost for the entire process - initial consult, sedation, and x-rays, surgery, three follow-ups - was $2,985.87,” Daniel says.

But Daniel and Dylan had pet insurance for Hades.

“We got back $2,188.69, out of pocket just under $800 for the whole process, which includes the per condition excess of $200.”
“Pet insurance made the surgery financially viable for us,” Daniel says. 
“We can't easily come up with almost $3,000 overnight but can come up with $800; having the insurance allowed us not to worry about the cost. We could just focus on Hades' recovery.”

The fantastic news is; nine weeks after surgery, Hades is doing great and back to his bouncy self.

“Our dog is doing great now! It's been about nine weeks since the surgery, and he's bouncing around like a puppy! You'd never know now that he'd ever had a problem with the leg,” Daniel smiles.

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