To diagnose cruciate disease your vet will feel for abnormal movement in the knee joint. Some dogs who are very tense or painful may need to be sedated for this. X-rays may also be recommended.
There are several treatment options for cruciate ligament damage and your vet will talk to you about which is best for your dog.
Treatment without surgery
Smaller dogs (under 10kg) and dogs with mild signs can sometimes recover without surgery.
Treatment usually includes:
Treatment without surgery relies on the dog building extra strength around the knee joint which takes the strain off the broken cruciate ligament. Their pain has to be managed in the meantime. Recovery can take weeks to months and the aim is for your dog not to be in pain in the long term. Even with successful treatment some dogs might still walk with a slight limp (but no pain).
If this treatment isn’t successful, if your dog is over 10kg or they have severe symptoms surgery might be recommended.
There are several different surgeries for cruciate disease. Speak to your vet about the best option for your dog. It will depend on their weight and size and whether referral to a specialist surgeon is an option for your dog.
After knee surgery for cruciate disease, there is a recovery period of several weeks. Your dog will still need all of the things listed under medical treatment and your vet will give you specific instructions tailored to your dog. It’s very important to follow these to make sure your dog has the best chance of recovery.
After recovering, your dog would be expected to go back to living a normal life, However, you will always need to take care to avoid strenuous exercise (jumping, skidding, chasing) to make sure your dog doesn’t don’t re-injure themselves.