Diagnosing a Torn/Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

When our dog tore her CCL, she imediately came up lame and was unable to put any weight or pressure on her right hind leg. She had minor hip problems previously, so at first we thought that she just overdid it while playing at the beach, so we took her home, gave her some MetaCam and let her rest overnight. When nothing had changed the next day (Sunday), we decided to take her to the pet Emergency Room.

At the ER, they told us that to diagnose the problem with her knee they were going to have to do 2 things:

  1. Take x-rays of the stifle (knee) joint to make sure that there is no bone damage and/or arthritis.
  2. Manipulate the joint while the dog is sedated to check for instability (drawer movement)

So we left our dog at the emergency clinic so that they could sedate and diagnose her injury, and when we next heard back from them, they told us that she most likely has a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL; misspelling: cranial crucial ligament) and that we should take her to her primary care veterinarian to discuss repair options.

Image by anearthling.


  1. julie alexander says

    Is your dog a greyhound and did you have the surgery done?

    My greyhound is over 13yo and seems to have the CCL injury. She started by walking sideways several weeks ago and the vet chalked it up to arthritis. She has gradually gotten to the point of putting no weight on the lame leg and on Monday morning the knee was swollen. Xrays showed no dislocations or arthritis. We have been referred to an orthopedic surgeon if the pain meds and antibiotics don’t give her any relief within a few days.

  2. says

    Hi Julie –

    Our dog is not a greyhound, she is an American Pitbull Terrier. We did have the surgery done, and it was the best decision that we could have made (for our situation).

    If you’d like to do a write-up on your dog, we’d be happy to post it to our blog to see if we could get any comments/responses from our readers.

    Best of luck to you and your dog.

    • elizabeth says

      Hi, my 10 year old german shepard has a ruptured ccl on her left leg and a tear on her right. Surgery for the left leg is schdueled for tomorrow. I hope i am doing the right thing. She seems ok now, because of the pain meds she is taking. I am so afraid that she wont be able to get up after surgery and in the long run, and if so afraid of her rupturing the other leg. My instincts tells me to go along with the surgery.

      • elizabeth says

        hi my german shepard also had a rupture and a slight tear on her other leg. She is 10 years old. The nylon cord surgery was done. In to 2 weeks she did GREAT, but we overdid her activity and she stretched the cord. PLEASE what ever you do. have your dog take it easy. Be sure to follow through the range of motion exercises. She is 2 weeks opt and is going to take the cast or bandage off in 2 days. I would suggest some good supplement, I use ligaplex to connect tissues, I give my dog 6 a day. She weight 95 lbs. Fish oil, gluclosime with maganese, the two work together. Dizestive enzymes, and probiotics. This has helped greatly.

  3. Sue M says

    A few days ago my 11 yr old 7-3/4 lb Yorkie started limping and hardly touching his left hind leg to the floor. When I took him to the clinic, the vet said both his knees are bad but that he had apparently torn the ligament in his left one. While he was examining the knees, the vet told me that most dogs had to be sedated to do this manipulating, but Trey didn’t even act like he felt it. I’m hoping this means the tear isn’t as bad and may heal, but I’m giving him Metacam anyway. How I wish they could tell you when they hurt!

  4. Joe P says

    Our 5 year old black Lab/Shepard mix (Harley-Earl)was playing with me in the front lawn on Sunday. When he turned quickly he yelped and came limping back to me. We watched him over night and the pain seemed to be worse as he would not put any weight on his leg and held it up walking on three legs. After the trip to the vet we were informed that he had torn his CCL in his left rear leg and the vet recommended TTA surgery which is very expensive by my standards. ($3,900)He scheduled for surgery on Monday so I am researching to verify that this is the best for him or if there is a acceptable non surgical rememdy.

  5. says

    Hi Joe –

    From everything that I’ve heard and read, I’d assume that TTA would be a good option, however, I’m not too familiar with the pricing in that type of surgery. I’m sure there are others out there who would advocate TPLO for this injury, as I’ve heard from many Lab owners who have had TPLO surgery performed on their pet.

    Whatever happens, best of luck, and I wish Harley-Earl a speedy recovery.

  6. Kayle says

    My mastiff / Great Dane mix ~ Molly the Moose had been limping and was favoring her back left leg. I thought she had stepped on something and did not take her to the vet right away. She did not injure herself (that I saw) and was not acting like she was in pain. After about two weeks I took her to our regular vet. We were told that she had a torn Cranial Cruciate Ligament and we were reffered to a specialist. The Specialist has recommended the TPLO and we have the surgery set for Thursday morning. The surgery is going to cost $2700. This includes the meds and the follow ups.

    Molly is a big girl, she weighs in at 135 pounds. She is not overweight. We do agility, frisbee and alot of hiking. I understand that this may the cause of her injury.

    My questions are:
    #1 what is the likley hood that she will tear the other one? (the vet told me it was likley)
    #2 During the 2 week recovery time how much time can i expect to get away from the house?
    #3 With a large dog how do you manage potty breaks, eating, ect…?

    Thanks so much!


  7. says

    Hi Kayle –

    I’m just answering from personal experience and from what I’ve learned while going through this with our dog, so don’t hold me to these answers. I’d love to hear input from others too!

    1. Dog with weak knees are like dogs with weak hips, if one goes, it is likely the other will too, however there are many things that can be done to prevent this. The biggest factor being the dogs weight. Weight management is the best option. As you may have read, our dog was a bit overweight when she tore hers and has since lost about 30% of her body weight and hasn’t had any problems since.
    2. We were able to leave our dog all day. Per the vets recommendation, we left our dog in a crate, and if she seemed particularly antsy, we’d give her a sedative.
    3. That the tough part. Our dogs leg was wrapped and supported very well for the first 4 weeks, so anytime we took her out, we just had to keep a close eye on her. We fed her in her pen and just restricted her movement and activity as much as possible.

    I hope this info helps, and I wish you and Molly the Moose the best of luck!

  8. Mark Gross says

    All of the symptoms that I have read/researched were true of my 7.8 yr old Airdale. She was limping and not putting weight on the right hind leg on a Monday night and paced almost all night long. Tuesday morning I took her to the vet, who diagnosed a partially torn ACL. This diagnosis was confirmed at the veterinary surgery center. I had scheduled TPLO for tomorrow morning, but postponed it, after getting a 2nd opinion from my sister-in-law’s vet. (She lives out in the country and has 10 horses & 5 dogs) He agreed there was a partial tear, but was not quick to recommend surgery. He took a more ‘wait and see’ position. Since the intial visit, she has been on a daily dose of Tramadol and Etogesic.

    So, I am keeping a close eye on her, but do not want to risk further damage. Would you suggest TPLO, or the older ‘mono-filament’ ligament method?

    Thank you –
    Mark J Gross

  9. says

    Hi Mark –

    I’m not a vet, so it’s hard to say. There are positive arguments for each type of surgery. I’ve typically read that the mono-filament method is not intended for dogs over 50lbs. or more due to the strain that they’ll put on the stifle joint. These are questions for your vet that will have to be answered by the activity level of the dog, current weight, goal weight, etc.

    Best of luck!

  10. Jose says


    I’m just researching around the net to better understand the CCL repair and recovery. I have a 9 month old Blue nose Pit Bull who began to favor both of his rear legs. It’s an intermittent thing, as sometime he appears to be fine and then all of the sudden he favors one of the rear legs for a bit and then seams fine again. I took him to have x rays which do not say 100% that he has an CCL injury, but does show some signs of it. Our next step is a joint tap, but the vet says he’s 90% sure he has tears in both knees – not ruptures. Anyway, I’m thinking that we will end up in surgery. Can anyone help me out with how you went about dealing with the recovery part of it. I’m told the surgery is the easy past (aside from cost) and the recovery is the hard part. Kenneth, if you read this; since you have a Pit Bull; how was it for you? My dog wants to run and play as any 9 month old would. Even now he wants to take off and run around the house with destination unknown. I’ve had three Pits throughout my days and have found that they tolerate pain very well. Do you put him on meds to keep them calm? I understand he will have to be confined to his crate for a period of time. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and what joint supplement do you folks recomend?

    • says

      Hi Jose –

      Our red nose pit that had the surgery used to do the same thing. We’d take her to the beach where she’d run and play for about an hour, then later that evening and into the next day, she’d favor one (or both) of her hind legs. I was told that it was hip/knee stiffness when this used to happen. It’d take a day or so, and it’d go away, every time and she’d be fin afterward. Our veterinarian had given us Meloxicam in the past. Meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory that seemed to help our dog dramatically. The problem with this would be that if your dog does happen to have 1 or both CCL’s torn, then Meloxicam might give your dog a false sense of stability allowing it to further injure its leg(s). Get it checked with your vet and/or get a second opinion to see if the CCL is torn for certain. If it is not, then rest and less strenuous activity would be a good way to move forward.

  11. abi says

    Hi Jose and Kenneth,I am wondering if you all ended up having surgeries on your dogs.I have a bluenose pitbull,16 mnths who just had tplo surgery on his back left leg,scary.Not what we wanted to have to do but options seemed limited.He had been showing signs of weakness for a couple months until we heard that telltale yelp and he would place no pressure on the leg. We received consultation from a couple vets and it seems that due to weight 92# and age not yet 2 this was the best option. He is laying in his kennel as I type 4ft from me with a full belly ,sedated due to his nature,HYPER.Wondering how your dogs healed with or without surgery ,would appreciate any other comments.We love him so much and only want the best for him.These are some of the most stoic in nature of dogs and it is critical to fix him to us,he will receive ,metacam,recovery for the rest of his life.We have a 9 yr old rottie who had tightrope surgery 6 yrs ago and although arthritic he has had great outcome,never blowing out his other leg.Will be interesting to compare the 2 outcomes.good luck to all out there.

  12. says

    Hi Abi –

    We did get surgery on our dog. We went with the traditional type surgery because our dog was 60 lbs at the time of surgery but she was very heavy for her frame. After surgery (and now) she is a healthy 45 lbs. and has been very active in the years following her surgery.

  13. aida says

    I have a 4 month old re nose pitbull she is a very active pup. When I headed out to work this a.m I put her in crate as usual and when I got home for lunch I opened her crate to let her out and she started to limp from hind left leg.=( Please!! Can someone tell me if this is normal or what it could be? She does not cry still try’s to be active almost seems as if her hind leg were sleep.

  14. says

    Hi Aida –

    This definitely isn’t “normal”, though I can say our red nose (prior to injuring her leg) did occasionally get up limping from laying/sleeping wrong. It makes me wonder if your dog injured the leg hearing that she is only 4 months old. If the limping persists, I’d recommend taking her to the vet ASAP.

    Best of luck.

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