Conservative management is a non-surgical option for treating cranial cruciate injuries in dogs. Depending on the size of your dog, the severity of the injury and the duration of time since the onset of the CCL damage, your veterinarian may suggest CM in lieu of surgical intervention. Conservative management is focused around three basic principles:
- Weight management
- Exercise moderation/rest
- Using anti-inflammatory medications
Maintaining your dog’s body weight at normal, or slightly below normal, levels will reduce the load placed on the injured joint, and may help to improve its function. This will allow your canine to strengthen the joint without adding any additional strain, adding stability and range of motion. Restriction of activity for at least 6-8 weeks after injury is a key part of successful CM. After about 2 months of little to no exercise you may begin reintroducing your pet to weight-bearing activities such as short walks, making sure to avoid any extremes in activity. Controlled walks and exercise will help to maintain and strengthen muscle mass while avoiding re-injury; owners need to be careful to limit their dog’s play during this time as there is an elevated risk of injuring the other leg while the originally affected leg heals. The use of anti-inflammatory medications during this time will help to limit painful episodes and encourage healing.
The outcome associated with conservative management of cranial cruciate ligament injuries is based on body size. Approximately 70-80% of small breed dogs and cats will return to acceptable levels of function over a 6 week period of time. Conversely, only 15-20 % of dogs over 30 lbs. will return to acceptable function. Surgery is often recommended for medium to large breed dogs that are over 30 pounds.