Torn Ligament

Articular ligaments are fibrous bands that connect bones to other bones to create joints. They are extremely important in maintaining skeletal integrity, so ligament tears result in joint instability and can lead to other problems including lameness and osteoarthritis. The most commonly ruptured or torn ligament in both dogs and cats is the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL). 

Torn Ligament

How it Affects your pet

Most acute ligament tears can be traced to a specific traumatic event such as a fall or an awkward landing after a jump. Some dog and cat health conditions, including autoimmune diseases and repetitive joint stress, can cause chronic tears. Pets with chronic tears lose joint function gradually as the ligament breaks down. A pet with a chronic tear is also at increased risk of suffering an acute tear of the weakened ligament after a minor injury. When a ligament tear occurs, the site becomes inflamed and painful. Bleeding from torn blood vessels and leakage from damaged cells in the area cause swelling. This puts pressure on local nerve endings and increases the pet's discomfort. Blood clots begin to form, and in a few days to a few weeks, the body begins to repair the ligament by making immature collagen at the site of the injury to fuse the torn ends. Weeks to months after the injury, the remodeling process begins. This involves the gradual restoration of normal structure. The remodeling process can take more than a year, but most pet animals regain near-normal function sooner. If not treated properly, ligament tears can result in permanent joint and muscle damage due to improper biomechanics and chronic inflammation. 

Common symptoms

The symptoms of this pet health condition depend on the joint affected torn ligament symptoms often include: Inability to move the affected joint or difficulty moving it, swelling around the joint, bruising around the joint, Pain, Lameness, Whining, Hiding, especially in felines and Reluctance to move.

Treatments

Treatment for this pet health problem depends on the joint involved, the severity of the injury, the other structures involved, the size of the animal and whether the patient is a dog or a cat. Minor to moderate injuries can often be treated with conservative management. This includes rest, weight reduction, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. If the injury is severe or the patient is a large or athletic dog, surgery may be required. For example, only 20 percent of dogs weighing more than 33 pounds improve after six months of conservative management for CrCL tears. By contrast, 65 percent of smaller dogs improve over the same time period. For this reason, immediate surgical stabilization is usually recommended for larger dogs with CrCL tears. In cats and smaller dogs, owners and veterinarians usually elect to try conservative treatment and resort to surgery only after medical management has proven unsuccessful.

Breeds Affected

There is a higher incidence of CrCL tears in certain canine breeds than others. These breeds include the following: Akita, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, American Staffordshire terrier, Saint Bernard, Chesapeake Bay retriever and Labrador retriever and Mastiff.

Torn Ligament Affects

  • Most acute ligament tears can be traced to a specific traumatic event such as a fall or an awkward landing after a jump. Some dog and cat health conditions, including autoimmune diseases and repetitive joint stress, can cause chronic tears. Pets with chronic tears lose joint function gradually as the ligament breaks down. A pet with a chronic tear is also at increased risk of suffering an acute tear of the weakened ligament after a minor injury. When a ligament tear occurs, the site becomes inflamed and painful. Bleeding from torn blood vessels and leakage from damaged cells in the area cause swelling. This puts pressure on local nerve endings and increases the pet's discomfort. Blood clots begin to form, and in a few days to a few weeks, the body begins to repair the ligament by making immature collagen at the site of the injury to fuse the torn ends. Weeks to months after the injury, the remodeling process begins. This involves the gradual restoration of normal structure. The remodeling process can take more than a year, but most pet animals regain near-normal function sooner. If not treated properly, ligament tears can result in permanent joint and muscle damage due to improper biomechanics and chronic inflammation. 

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