As with ACL tears in humans, CCL tears in dogs can be sudden and very noticeable, or they can develop slowly over time. When a person injures their knee and suffers a torn ACL, it is normally going to be very painful and the joint will feel very unstable and in most cases, will not be able to be used. The same will hold true for dogs when they injure their CCL. When our dog tore her CCL, she immediately stopped bearing weight on the leg.
Our dogs CCL was torn while at the beach, our other dog was playing and ran into her at full speed while she had her feet set in the sand and was digging. The impact caused an awkward twisting of her rear leg that was planted in the sand and it caused the CCL to give way. After the impact, she immediately held her leg up and began hopping/skipping and only using one rear leg.
This was an extreme situation, and it was obvious when it happened that our dog had suffered some sort of an injury. Whenever anything like this happens, the dog should be taken to the vet immediately, though I’m not sure I’d recommend the emergency vet anymore. If you’re unable to get your dog into the vet within a few days from the injury, the emergency vet may be your best option, but chances are, they’ll have you take your dog to your primary car veterinarian.
There will be cases where the injury slowly develops over time, and ligament will eventually give way, tearing/rupturing partially or completely. In this circumstance, you may notice your dog limping on occasion (not all the time), probably particularly after heavy activity, strenuous activity or prolonged activity. Some breeds of dogs have knee joints that aren’t physiologically great at bearing weight, and any of the above mentioned conditions can aggravate the CCL, and over time it can eventually deteriorate enough to the point where the ligament gives way. In this case, you’ll want to take your pet to the vet to get an opinion as you begin to notice the symptoms – limping, stiffness, sluggishness, less playful, etc. As the owner, you’ll know when your dog isn’t acting normally. If your dog is developing a slowly forming knee injury, it can often be treated by conservative management, weight management, and sometimes even change in diet. Your veterinarian will be able to give you treatment options and recommendations, but hopefully seeing the signs early will be able to prevent a full tear or rupture of the CCL.