Cranial 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:
- Previous injury to knee joint
- Large or giant breed
- Poor musculature, especially surrounding the joints
- Structural abnormalities – luxated patella, etc.