My dog has a Cruciate injury. What should I do?

Cruciate injuries are common injuries in the dog. But unlike this injury in people, cruciate injuries in the dog are usually the result of degenerative changes that occur in the ligament over time.

Most often, there may be a very subtle limp, or you may notice your dog favouring the leg on colder mornings, but then one day at the park chasing a ball, your dog pulls up lame.

The next step is usually a check up with your regular vet. Your vet may prescribe some anti-inflammatory drugs and suggest a wait and watch approach and advise some rest. This is a perfectly reasonable first step. If your dog improves, great! 

Sometimes your pet will remain lame on the leg and the next step will be X-rays under a general anaesthetic. This gives your vet an opportunity to feel for laxity (looseness) in the joint. There are two different diagnostic tests performed under anaesthetic, because the muscles are completely relaxed. The first test is a cranial drawer test and the second is a tibial thrust test.

X-rays also show if there is any early arthritis and any other existing conditions in the hips or spine.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed you will be faced with some choices. 

Surgery is often recommended to stabilise the joint. Stabilising the joint reduces the speed of arthritic changes in the joint. A ruptured cruciate is one of the injuries that will cause arthritis the fastest.

Different surgical techniques may be offered, depending on the size of your dog, the availability of skills and equipment at your local vet and the preference of the surgeon and your budget. Different procedures may be offered in the clinic or you may be referred to another hospital or referral hospital to have the surgery performed. 

Rehabilitation secondary to cruciate injury is beneficial at each and every stage of injury. Rehabilitation programs can be used prior to surgery, after surgery when your pet is recovering, of if you choose no surgery and prefer a more conservative approach. 

A careful and thorough rehabilitation program will greatly benefit your pet’s recovery process, regardless of your approach or surgical choices.