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Helping your dog with
Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Cruciate Ligament Injuries (CLI) are very painful for the dog and cause the stifle joint (knee) to become unstable. Much like in humans, the cruciate ligaments are situated inside the knee joint to hold it in the right position, which is essential for correct, pain-free movement.

Cruciate Ligament Injuries Overview

Signs of CLI

CLI can deteriorate over time (chronic degeneration) or happen all of a sudden (acute injury) or a combination of both. Chronic degeneration can show in off-loading their weight when stood or during movement, muscle loss and pain. 

Acute injuries tend to appear as a sudden non-weight bearing lameness where they 'tap' their toe on the floor instead of standing normally on it.

Causes of CLI

Acute injuries tend to happen during twisting type movements that overload the ligaments and they tear or rupture. This is commonly seen in very active or athletic dogs.

Chronic degeneration tends to see gradual reduction of use of the affected limb and is most commonly associated with inherited weakness.

A combination of both can also be seen where chronic degeneration can suddenly worsen or rupture due to inappropriate movement.

Treatment of CLI

Cruciate Injuries tend to only be conservatively managed (i.e. without surgery) when the level of damage is mild and the dog is small / light. Medium to large breed dogs fair best with surgery as their weight predisposes them to constant re-injury and pain throughout their life, even with the best possible rehabilitation and muscle building. 

 Surgery has fantastic success rates and the rehabilitation is often straight forward.

What can we do about it?

Plenty! We have numerous modalities in clinic that we have at our finger tips to help your dog. These include massage, soft tissue mobilisation, stretching, joint mobilisations, targeted exercises, laser therapy, hydrotherapy... shall we continue? These have all been shown to reduce pain, restore muscle function and strength, and improve your dog's quality of life. With each session they undergo constant review of their clinical signs and progression in order to gain maximum recovery at a pace that's comfortable for them.


For Post - Operative Patients, we have a comprehensive programme tailored for your dog's specific needs, depending on the type of surgery, how successful the surgery was and their recovery so far. For Conservative Management Patients, we will always assess their pain levels, degree of mobility, muscle strength, amongst more, to enable us to create the most successful treatment plan for them.


Alongside what we do with your beloved pooch, there are a number of things outside of the clinic that can help them manage their condition or rehabilitation. Please find information in the sections below!  

Home Modifications


Wooden floors and stairs are a big slip hazard for your dog. Try using non-slip mats along the main routes of your house. Alternatively, some dogs may benefit from paw pads (please speak to us before trying this option in case of contraindication).

Feeding Stations

Raising their water and food bowls may seem like a insignificant change to us, but it can really help your dog to be in a more neutral position.

Access to Furniture

Jumping up and down from heights if often a cause of additional pain for your dog. If they enjoy a cuddle on the sofa or the bed, make it easier for them with dog-friendly steps or ramps onto furniture. This also applies to getting in / out of cars! You may also find a sling to be useful.

Keeping Warm

Especially important in the colder months, your dog will benefit from staying warmer. Keep them in a jumper and walk them out with coats. Stay dry too!

Sleeping / Resting Areas

Great quality sleep is essential. Ensure their sleeping area is free from any drafts and in a warm spot. Their bedding should be supportive and not restrictive. Memory foam mattresses without rigid or tall sides are best. Make sure your dog can access the bed and can change position / stretch out easily.

Be Wary of Terrain

Different types of terrain in the garden and on walks can be hazardous, such as steep slopes, loose or uneven surfaces. Be mindful to where they are going.

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