- — While ligament tears can cause serious setbacks in an athlete's career, a similar injury can mean surgery and rehabilitation for your frisky kitty or romping Rover.
According to Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries, as they are referred to in animals, occur almost as often as they do in humans.
"Cats and dogs have the same ligaments that we have in our knees," says Kerwin. "The cruciate ligament stabilizes your femur and your tibia so you don't get too much motion between those two bones."
CCL tears in cats often occur the same way ACL tears occur in humans. Often, there is some traumatic injury that occurs as a result of jumping from high places, playing or getting the animal's leg caught in something.
"It takes a fair bit of force to rupture a cruciate ligament, and it tends to occur more often in overweight cats," says Kerwin.
However, in dogs, this injury is often the result of a chronic degeneration of the ligament and occurs much more frequently than it does in cats.
"In dogs, we think the injury may be related to weight and body structure, meaning that some large breeds such as Rottweilers, Labradors and Chow Chows, may be predisposed to CCL injuries," said Kerwin. "In some cases, we think it's either the shape of their tibia or the shape of their femur that predisposes them to this injury."
A ruptured ligament is usually characterized by limping or inactivity. In cats, they will not want to play the way they used to, and dogs will often appear lame and sit awkwardly with their leg sticking out, signaling a possible knee problem.