How Our Dog Ruptured Her Cranial Cruciate Ligament

We live in Southern California, so the beach is a fun and easy way for us to take our dogs out for exercise. We’re able to just walk along the shore and let our dogs run off the leash and do what they want, it’s far more relaxing than having to worry about taking them anywhere on a leash.

So we were out at the beach and our two dogs were our running around doing their own thing. Roxy (our 5 1/2 year old American Pit Bull Terrier) and our pitbull lab mix puppy happy as clams, Roxy digging holes and the puppy running around everywhere as fast as he could possibly go. Seeing Roxy, the puppy go very excited and ran at her, her back legs were set in the sand from digging, and the puppy never slowed down. He crashed right into her at full speed. She came up limping. She’s had slight hip problems in the past, and had a tendancy to limp a bit after our visits to the beach so we took her home, let her rest and decided to see how she was doing the following day.

Dog at the BeachThe next day there was no change in her leg, she was still unable to put any pressure on it, so we took her into the “Doggie ER”. (Side note – if your dog isn’t suffering from a life threatening condition, don’t bother with a Pet Emergency Clinic – you’ll see why). At the pet emergency clinic, they decided to give her X-Rays to see if her ligament was torn – anyone who has ever had any ligament damage or torn ligaments knows that x-rays do not show ligaments, x-rays can only show bones, so having an x-ray was more or less pointless, unless they were checking for broken bones, which they made no mention of. In addition to the cost of X-Rays ($400) our dog had to be sedated, so that the doctor could “aggressively manipulate the joint” to test for instability. You may read negative reviews of manual joint manipulation, but we really didn’t give ourselves any time to research anything online, so we agreed to go ahead with the procedure. The manual joint manipulation allows the doctor (or vet) to check the stifle (knee) joint for “drawer movement”, this is basically any instability in the joint.

After all was said and done, the conclusion at the ER was that our dog had ruptured her Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL, equivalent to the ACL in humans) and we were then advised to take our dog to its primary care veterinarian within the next 3 days. At the time, we didn’t have a primary care veterinarian, but we lucked out because we were able to get a surgery scheduled in the place of a canceled appointment.


  1. ROBERT STACY says


  2. says

    Typically, you’ll want to take your dog in ASAP. We rushed our dog to the Emergency Clinic… If I could go back in time and do it again, I would have waited a couple days until we could get her into the regular vet.

  3. pam arabia says

    I have a 6yr old Aussie, he is very active at are shop since he was 6 weeks old customers play fetch with him all day and he loves it, Question is in the last 2 weeks this has happened 3 times, he will be running after the ball and he will all of a sudden scream and will hold up his back left leg, I can touch his hips but if I touch where his knee is he reacts, he will hold it up for about 2hrs and then he starts to put weight back on it, when he has been lying down for a while he gets ups slow and is really stiff for about 10mins then fine, do you think he has a torn ligament.

    Thank You

  4. says

    Hi Pam –

    Our dog used to do the same thing prior to tearing the ligament, the only difference is that she didn’t do it immediately. We’d notice her limping a couple hours of after returning from the beach. She’d hold her leg up when walking, then after a few hours she’d be back to normal.

    My best recommendation to you would be to have her stop playing fetch, and also go ask the vet to take a look at the leg.

    Hope this helps.

  5. caine the dog says

    My dog’s name is Caine. He is a pit bull and bull terrier mix and he ruptured his CCL about 2 months ago, he has been on Daramaxx the past 2 months and i too got him x rays and i did not realize what the author said about only seeing bones in x rays not ligaments. Caine goes everywhere i go and has been to all 48 states since i rescued him 7 years ago. a lot of walking traveling and camping is a pretty much daily routine for us. Caine never actually tore his CCL but the vet said it was clearly ruptured. when he recommended that i rest caine for 6-8 weeks over getting the surgery i told him about our routine lifestyle. luckily weve been traveling by truck this past fall and this winter. it has been 7 weeks and he jumps into and out of the truck no problem and playing and not showing any signs of weakness, or been favoring any of his joints. does that seem normal for it to have been healed on its own that quick? i also keep Caine on gluclosamene for his joints.

  6. says

    Caine –

    Sounds like the joint has stabalized itself, from the best of my understanding, this is often times through the buildup of scar tissue on and around the injured area, in this case the ruptured CCL.

    Its hard to say whether or not the joint is actually “healed”, but if it doesn’t affect your (or the dogs) quality of life, I personally don’t see the reason or need for a surgery. If Caine were limping all the time, then obviously, that’d be another story, but as long as he gets around fine and is able to make it through daily routines without pain, I’d just keep doing what you’re doing. One other thing to keep in mind is that the pit bull breed is very loyal and has a very high tolerance for pain, so just keep an eye on Caine and watch for any signs of discomfort, even if they seem minor.

    I hope this helps, best of luck to you and Caine.

  7. Denver says

    Hi we came back from vacation and our dog was only standing on 3 legs we looked in its paw and there is nothimg you can move it any way u want and it does not hurt him but he will not walk on it but some times he will put only his toes down do u thimk he has clr

  8. Brigitte Owens says

    Hi my dog is a 11 year old Schipperke, about 3 month ago he started walking on 3 legs and just putting his toes down at times. I was told by my Vet through xray that he had a torn ligament. I was trying though lot of research to help him heel himself. Just do not want to put him through surgery at his age. It seemed to work goo by just restraining him.. But every time he runs and tries to jump he is right back where we started.. He walked so well on all four till her run down the hall and slipped. Now he is keeping his leg up again. I was getting ready to have the surgery scheduled till I talked with my vet and found out he would have operated on the wrong leg. He had the right one down and all along it always has been the left leg..
    I am thinking of taken him to an orthopedic surgend. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Entirely up to you. At 11 years, I’d say that surgery might be an unecessary expense, but if you think your dog will live a healthy active life for a number of years to come, then it may be something that you want to consider. The problem with a torn ligament is that it can’t be “healed” on its own. Ligaments won’t grow back. They need to be surgically repaired if you ever want it to be better. The reason that your dog may have been better while you were helping him/her out is that with inactivity, scar tissue will build and this will give the dogs knee a false sense of stability/security, but upon any type of activity, the scar tissue is likely to break down leaving your dog back where it started.

      Best of luck, and I’m glad your found our site. Please let us know what you decide!

      • Brigitte says

        Well it has been a little over one year when my Schipperke tore a ligament. I deceidet to let him take it easy and keep him restrained. A year later he is doing well and walking on four legs. The Vet said some times on these little guys it heals itself with a lot of patients and rest. I am glad I waited it out.

  9. bob j says

    My american pitbull tore her knee ligament and had surgery done, the fishing line technique…she had a couple of months rest after surgery and 6 months later was running as usual, but just lately she has been limping again at the park, and today after the park she will put no weight on the leg at all, and is crying a bit… not sure what happened but it sure does suck!!..She runs so fast and turns on a dime, so powerful and explosive I am actually not surprised she blew out a knee, i actually predicted it, she is only 2.5 years old. Growing up we brought her to the park for an hour almost everyday and this is what happens in the end…It seems like the only way to protect her knee from injury is to keep her on a leash…..It seems like any knee surgery she gets she will blow it out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.