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Are CCL Injuries More Common in Certain Dog Breeds?

Boxer and American Bulldog Mix, High Risk for CCL InjuryCranial cruciate ligament tears and ruptures can happen to any dog (or cat, although it is not nearly as common), but there are certain risk factors that make particular breeds of dogs more susceptible to this type of damage. CCL injuries are one of the most common orthopedic injuries in dogs, and is the most common cause of degenerative joint diseases in the stifle joint, like arthritis. While there is no way any dog can completely avoid their risk of CCL injury, there are a number of risk factors owners should be aware of, especially if they suspect their dog may have injured their stifle (knee).

Female dogs have been shown to have a higher incidence rate of CCL injuries, especially altered female dogs; this is believed to be related to hormones lacked by fixed females. Overweight dogs of both sexes are at an increased risk of CCL injuries, as the added strain and weight on the joint can lead increase instability. Poorly conditioned dogs, i.e. do not get much exercise, the “couch potato” personality, have also demonstrated a higher incidence of canine cruciate ligament damage. CCL rupture occurs in dogs of all sizes, but is most prevalent in larger breeds including Bernese Mountain dogs, Bullmastiffs, Chows, German Sheperds, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Labs, American Bulldogs, and Saint Bernards. This is both due to their added weight, and the confirmation of a large breed dog’s leg – it tends to have a much greater angle than their smaller canine cousins.

Age is also a risk factor for CCL injury, and there are two types of CCL onset related to a dog’s age when the injury occurs. Chronic onset, degeneration over time with subsequent rupture (usually from aging), occurs in 80% of cases and occurs in dogs 5 to 8 years old. Acute onset, a tear caused by injury, is most common in dogs under 4 years old. Young dogs of large breeds are more susceptible to rupture than young dogs of small breeds. Older dogs are also at greater risk for CCL tears if they already have arthritis and/or have decreasing musculature, especially surrounding the knee joints.

To sum it up, there is no way you can protect your dog from a CCL injury, but there are risk factors which make dogs more likely to sustain a serious cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture. Large and giant breed dogs do more commonly sustain CCL injury, but this is usually compounded with other risk factors, which are mentioned below.

Risk Factors in Dogs for CCL Damage:

  • Age
  • Arthritis
  • Previous injury to knee joint
  • Overweight
  • Large or giant breed
  • Poor musculature, especially surrounding the joints
  • Structural abnormalities – luxated patella, etc.

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6 Responses to Are CCL Injuries More Common in Certain Dog Breeds?

  1. angie theodorakis July 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    I have a beautiful mixed german shepherd, malamute, chow chow, collie who needed to undergo TPLO surgery at age: 3 yrs. Very active, neutered, NOT overweight at ALL (or ever has been)!! Question: WHY- since she does NOT fit ‘the criteria’ of the ‘typical case’ did she develop and need to be operated…no one seems to be able to answer my questions…

  2. David Heaton September 2, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    Be cautious in surgery. I understand that only 20% of TPLO surgeries performed on large breed dogs have their condition improve.

  3. Craig April 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Who knows Angie. I have a German Shorthair mix, (unknown with what), that needed both knees done. We did them 3 months apart, the first at 21 months and the second at 2yrs old. Young, healthy, well cared for, very active, well exercised almost every day at local parks, had the run of an acre of ground when “resting” at home. All in all the best care a dog could have.

    Our vet said in her case she was genetically disposed to it due to the structure of her bones. I suspect your dog had a similar issue. Dogs that are active can get this injury. It’s not unlike football and basketball players that get torn ACL’s. Same thing here. They play hard, they push the envelope, they might get injured. It’s not unusal at all to see top agility dogs with the best of care and the best breeding to come down with this injury.

  4. Kayleigh July 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    I have a Terrier cross who has just been diagnosed with Cruciate ligament injury.
    Again, he does not fit the ‘criteria’ as he is very healthy, fit and well exercised. My little man is only 4 and a half months old and it looks as though he got his injury whilst out on one of his walks.
    He heard a loud bang and tried to jump up, as far as we can tell, he landed wrong as since then he has been lifting his leg up and not put any weight on it.
    After seeing the vet, we have been given some anti-inflamation medication that he has to have once a day and he is due for a check up in a few days time.
    If he is still not applying any weight on the injured leg, then surgery is the next option.

  5. bryan November 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Risk factors for excessive tibial plateau angle in large-breed dogs with cranial cruciate ligament disease.

    Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: Results suggested that early neutering was a significant risk factor for development of excessive TPA in large-breed dogs with CCLD.

    http://orthovetsupersite.org/small-animal/knee/802-risk-factors-for-excessive-tibial-plateau-angle-in-large-breed-dogs-with-cranial-cruciate-ligament

  6. PA Watters March 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Our third female spayed Dogue de Bordeaux has now injured ACL. #1was 4.5 yrs old when repaired; #2 was 2yrs old; now #3 is 14 mo…all very active and in great shape. Three male mastiffs (bull/Bordeaux mix) no problems with ACL, alsmo not neuterd!

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