What to Expect in a Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery

A Picture of A Brown Dog After Ligament Surgery

Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery: Why Would a Dog Need this Surgery?

Cranial Cruciate Ligament damage is a rip or tear of one of the cruciate ligaments.  It is usually the result of slow, subtle degeneration of the ligament that has been taking place from within rather than being the result of an injury to a previously healthy ligament.

The cruciate ligaments located within the knee in an “X” pattern that connects the femur (“thigh bone”) to the tibia (“shin bone”). The cranial cruciate ligament’s function is to stabilize the tibia and keep it from sliding out of position, hyperextending, and twisting.

Because of this, many dogs that have damaged cruciate ligament in one knee will experience the same in the other knee.

Diagnosis of a damaged cranial cruciate ligament is determined by observation of the dog’s gait, palpation of the dog’s knee, and verification with x-rays. Hind leg lameness is the most common sign of a CCL rupture. The dog may also experience pain and swelling of the joint. Sometimes a crackling sound can be heard when the dog walks due to the bones rubbing together (crepitus). There may also be a popping or snapping sound when walking if the knee cartilage has also been damaged.

Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery: Are Certain Dog Breeds More at Risk?

Cranial cruciate rupture is possible in any breed of dog, but it is most commonly seen in:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Rottweiler
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Toy Poodle
  • Lhasa apso
  • Bichon Frise
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Mastiff
  • Large Dogs
  • Overweight Dogs
  • Older Dogs

Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery: The Procedure Explained

The surgery most often used to repair cranial cruciate ligaments in dogs is Extra-capsular Suture Stabilization, which is also called “Ex-Cap Suture”, “Lateral Fabellar Suture Stabilization”, or “The Fishing Line Technique”.

The theory behind this procedure is that the function of the damaged cranial cruciate ligament can be replaced with a heavy monofilament nylon suture placed in a parallel fashion to the original cruciate ligament, except on the outside of the joint. (The ligament is on the inside of the joint.) This suture stabilizes the tibia (“shin bone”) relative to the femur (“thigh bone”) and allows normal knee movement.

After the surgery, the dog’s activity must be highly restricted for approximately 4 months. Activity to early or excessively can cause the surgery to fail. Special exercises and/or physical therapy is recommended to regain range of motion after surgery. The cost of this surgery is usually around $1800.

Watch a Video of the Procedure

Watch Dog Cranial Cruciate Ligament Surgery

Powerful Tools to Help Your Dog’s Cruciate Ligament Challenges

You can make many quick and easy changes at home to help you give your dog an edge on easing tendon and ligament challenges.

 Clinical Studies


  • AKC Canine Health Foundation
  • Colorado State University
  • Rupture of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament
  • Yancy Clinic of Veterinary Medicine

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