Your Dog Has Done A Cruciate? Now What?

So your dog went lame one day – really lame. And the Vet says that the cruciate is ruptured. Now What?

A bit of background.

  • The cranial cruciate ligament is this important ligament in the back leg which stops the thigh and leg bones (femur and tibia) from moving around (that’s actually a very lame explanation but I tried to keep it simple and I think it sums it up).
  • If the ligament is ruptured – the leg becomes unstable and can’t take any weight on it.
  • The injury hurts initially but the pain does get better. The problem is – once the ligament is gone, it can’t repair itself. So unlike say, a cut on the skin, the lameness never gets better.
  • A Vet can get an idea on the spot if the ligament is ruptured – it moves in a certain way (this one is hard to explain). I never say ‘Your dog has a ruptured cruciate’ before doing X-rays. I usually say ‘I think your dog has a ruptured cruciate, we will need to take X-rays first’.

This is how I would hold the leg to check for a ruptured cruciate.


Ways to fix it.

  • DeAngelis – this is a tried and tested way. Basically the Vet puts a new, synthetic ligament to do the job of the old one. Works really well for smaller dogs but I wouldn’t rush to do it on any dog above 30kg or so – not unless I really had to. The synthetic ligament just wouldn’t take the weight.

See that green thing? That’s the synthetic ligament.


  • TPLO – a new(ish) method. TPLO stands for Tibial Plateau Levelling Ostotomy. It costs about double of DeAngelis, and for a good reason. The way it works is completely different (and quite freaky): You don’t actually replace the ligament. Instead you cut the hip bone in half (!!) and reconnect it in a way that it doesn’t need the cruciate any more. Told you it was freaky, didn’t I. It’s better because there is no ligament to snap. But keep in mind – you are getting the bone cut in half. So it is a major surgery.

See that white thing? That’s a metal plate holding two cut pieces of bone together.


  • TTA, etc., etc. – There was a time where Vets couldn’t do TPLO unless they paid a bucket-load of money to this one guy because the surgery was under patent (it’s a long story). So some other Vets came up with a whole bunch of other procedures to replace the TPLO. The TTA is the most common, but there are others. TPLO has gone off patent by now but some people got used to TTA and it stuck. It’s basically another version of TPLO but slightly more risky. My advise is – don’t do it.

So the home lessons are:

  1. A ruptured cruciate is not very painful so pain relief doesn’t help that much.
  2. It never gets better without surgery.
  3. There are different ways to fix a cruciate for different size dogs. So don’t just go on price.

There are some money-hungry Vets (yes you do find a few of those) who will try to sell a DeAngelis for 40kg dogs – don’t do it. The ligament will fail and the dog will be lame again.

About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim is a house call Veterinarian in Melbourne
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