Many veterinarians will try to pressure owners into immediately proceeding with surgical intervention to repair a dog’s damaged cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) by saying early intervention will decrease the likelihood of arthritic changes to the knee. There is some truth to this – restriction of the knee joint after injury does help to minimize the progression of arthritic tissue in a dog with a CCL injury, but the necessary amount of restriction can be reached with conservative techniques as well as surgery. Restricting your dog’s activity following a cruciate ligament injury is your best defense against arthritis, and no owner should ever be made to feel as though surgery is their only option.
The truth is, all dogs that sustain a cruciate ligament tear or rupture are at an increased risk for arthritis, no matter at what point surgery (if ever) is undertaken. There is no evidence that dogs who recover using Conservative Management (CM), and dogs who recover with surgery show any differences in the development of future arthritic problems. Proper restriction during recovery and avoiding high-risk activities after recovery, together with weight control, good nutrition, and joint-supporting supplements are what minimize the chances of future arthritic problems – not immediate surgical intervention.