Knees, Rehabilitation and Braces: A Guide to Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
By: Kirsty Oliver, VN, DipAVN (surgical), CVT, CCRP, CVPP
There’s no denying it, we all have knees, even our canine companions. Knees are sometimes a source of discomfort and most often, injury. Athletes and non-athletes alike are likely to have some sort of knee issue during their lifetime.This can also be said of our canine counterparts.
Just because they walk on four legs instead of two, does not make them any less likely to encounter an issue.The knee, or stifle joint in dogs (and cats), is prone to a common injury where one of the two ligaments that criss-cross in the knee, tears or ruptures.
This ligament is the cranial cruciate ligament and it is responsible for keeping the joint from overextending, overt inward rotation and incorrect forward movement. The cranial cruciate ligament or CCL is also frequently referred to as the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament.
Injury may occur after such actions as: sudden starts, sudden stops, tight turns, jumping and running. Pretty much all the fun things dogs enjoy doing! Cruciate tears may occur suddenly (acute) or more chronically over time. Most pet parents notice a limp, stiffness, pain and sometimes, swelling or heat in the joint.
At some point, surgical intervention is required to restabilize the joint; however not all pets are candidates for surgery. There are several different techniques to restabilize the joint and your veterinarian will guide you as to which procedure is right for your pet.
Physical rehabilitation is used both pre and post operatively to treat joint pain and swelling, promote better joint range of motion, improve weight bearing and thigh muscle mass. This can be done using a variety of modalities including manual therapy, aquatic therapy, low level laser, exercise and thermotherapy.
Not all pets are candidates for surgery. This may be due to underlying medical conditions or concerns. Cruciate or canine knee braces play a pivotal role in being able to maintain stifle stability, while maintaining adequate weight bearing in the limb to limit thigh muscle atrophy. The wonderful folks at My Pet’s Brace will custom make a brace for your pet to support the stifle in an anatomically correct position. This will allow your pet to walk, bear weight and limit the stress and strain on the other limb. They can even make it in your pet’s favorite colour!
These braces are also extremely useful after surgery. They allow for weight bearing and support as tissue heal and take the load off the other knee. They can also be used during the rehabilitation process.
Just remember that most human cruciate tears are associated with top athletes, so even though your pet may prefer surfing the kitchen counters rather than big waves, your pet is in good company!
KIRSTY OLIVER is a veterinary rehabilitation professional seeing patients at the Center for Integrative Veterinary Medicine at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Red Bank, New Jersey. (732) 747-3383