Will My Pet Run Again? Recognizing and Treating Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease most commonly affects large dogs, followed by small dogs and sometimes cats. Though the tear is similar to a human ACL tear, human tears typically result due to injury – not chronic degeneration.

The cruciate ligaments form a fibrous cross in a dog or cat’s stifle (like a person’s knee joint), which connects the femur (upper leg bone) to the tibia (lower leg bone). Pets with CCL disease experience chronic degeneration of the ligament, leading to an eventual tear. The veterinary community does not fully understand the cause, but CCL disease is thought to be genetic, as the conformation of bones stress ligaments.

Pets experiencing a tear due to CCL disease display an acute onset of lameness in one leg, having difficulty walking or putting any weight on the affected joint. CCL disease usually affects one leg, but another tear of the other leg can happen within six to twelve months.


Diagnosing Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease

A Pet Health veterinarian performs a physical evaluation and takes X-rays to rule out other concerns.

  • Manual Joint Palpation – Manually moving the affected joint reveals pain, stiffness and/or crepitus (crunching sound). Veterinarian also checks for cranial drawer (when joint instability allows the lower leg bone to move forward).
  • X-rays – Although ligaments and cartilage do not appear in X-rays, they will reveal additional concerns, such as arthritis or excessive fluid or inflammation in the joint (secondary to CCL disease).
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CCL Treatment

Two courses of treatment can be taken:

  • Surgical – Recommended for larger dogs, surgical treatments do not repair the ligament, but attempt to re-balance joints, improving stability and function. The most common surgery is Tibial Plateau-Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), which adjusts the forces within the joint.
  • Therapeutic – Smaller pets respond well to therapeutic treatment, including extremely restricted activity and medications, as well as integrative medicine (laser therapy, massage and acupuncture) to ease pain and inflammation. Rehabilitation also increases range of motion, strengthens the joint and improves mobility.

At Pet Health, we work with pet parents to determine the best treatment course for pets with CCL disease. If you notice signs of CCL disease in your dog or cat, we encourage you schedule an appointment right away.


– Missie A.

Pet Health Hospital is a life saver. My poor cat was attacked by another cat and developed a terrible abscess on her little head. Dr. Pizzillo was the attending veterinarian who treated my BabyGir!!. She was able to get the situation under control before it became more serious. Dr. Pizzillo is compassionate and caring. She has a very calming way about her and put my worries at ease. The entire staff is very professional and welcoming. I am going to recommend Pet Health Hospital to anyone needing an excellent veterinarian. Thank you to all of you!!!!

– Jennifer C.

Pet Health has been a wonderful health care service for our baby – Gracie.  She has a very serious health issue arise – and Dr. Lewis texted on a regular basis to check on her, to see how things were progressing and to see if we needed any help.   I am very grateful for their genuine love and concern for our dog.  thank you!

– Mee F.

Love this vet! Clean and high tech! The entire staff was friendly and so loving to my dog! First time here and I have already recommended this place to all my friends! The vet even followed up with us as she said she would on the urine test.

– Adrian W.

Great place. We’ve been to many vets throughout our dogs 7 years life span. This is the best place we’ve been to so far. Dr. Renee Lewis has a great presence and our dog was surprisingly extremely calm around her (he like every other dog, don’t like vets..).

This clinic is not very pushy wanting to do ‘extra’ work to create a larger bill. 

Dr. Lewis also showed that she really cared and took her time to get to know our dog, and explaining everything after the surgery. 

I’m done with Veterinaries that only cares about profit and rush through the consultation because they’re overbooked!

The staff here are also very friendly and helpful. They made us feel welcome!

I highly recommend this place!


– Sarah W.

Pet Health Animal Hospital is simply amazing. We found Dr. B and his team shortly after adopting our first dog. Being new to the area, we were concerned with finding the right vet that cared about our dog as much as we did. Lucky enough, we walked right into the perfect vet. From overnight stays to surgeries, Dr B and his team make us feel so comfortable, put any concern at ease, and are masters of communication. There is never a question left unanswered, or an update left undelivered. The whole team knows our dogs when we walk in, and our dogs are always excited and sprinting to get into the vet to see them. I tell people all the time that my favorite part of living in Las Vegas is Pet Health Animal Hospital!

– Andrew G.

The doctors and assistants do an amazing job here. I wasn’t sure what to do with my Sasha so I brought her in fearing the worst. Dr. Jessica Pizzillo was simply the best. She was able to remove the growth the same day and at a fraction of the cost of other estimates I had received, all while putting my Sasha through the least amount of trauma possible.

The front desk staff was also very kind and understanding when it comes to stressful situations like this. Stephanie and the rest of the staff made me feel comfortable and were very professional.

– Scott H.

Absolutely incredible vet! The level of service and attention is the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere.