Canine Torn Ligament Treatment: What Are Your Options?

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“We estimated that owners spent $1.32 billion for the treatment of cruciate ligament rupture in dogs in the United States in 2003.”

– Wilke et al.

As you can see, pet parents spend a lot of money on the treatment of  cranial cruciate ligament injury.

Due to the expense, canine torn ligament treatment is a big decision warranting thorough discussion with your veterinarian.

The decision can be tough, confusing, and expensive.

Every veterinarian has a different opinion.

First, let’s briefly review the treatment options.

Conservative Treatment for Canine Torn Ligament

Conservative treatment is usually the treatment of choice for smaller dogs weighing less than 25 lbs.

With six weeks of cage rest and leash walking, most dogs almost always return to near normal function.

The exception may be the dog with a concurrent luxating patella or cartilage tear.

The take-home message is the following: afflicted dogs weighing less than 25 lbs almost never need immediate surgery.

Frequently, dogs also benefit from adjunctive treatment with NSAIDs, PSGAGs, and fish oil.

Orthotic braces are also popping up as a treatment option; however, the success rates of using braces for a torn ligament in a dog’s hind leg has not been established.


Surgery is generally the treatment of choice for dogs weighing more than 25 lbs.

Numerous surgical options exist including the lateral suture, the TightRope, the TTA, and the TPLO.

Deciding on the best surgical correction is a decision to consider with the advice of your veterinarian.

All of the surgical techniques have pros and cons you should be aware of prior to making your decision.

Surgical treatment is typically best for cruciate disease because it is the only way to permanently control the instability present in the knee joint.

The goal of surgery is not to “repair” the ligament itself but to control instability and decrease pain.


Prolotherapy is an injection technique created to assist in strengthening the fibrous tissue around the circumference of the joint.

Not all dogs are suitable candidates for prolotherapy and cases must be chosen wisely.

I usually use prolotherapy on older dogs with partial tears or dogs undergoing surgery as a preventative technique for the other (good) stifle.

Unfortunately, roughly 50% of dogs suffering from a canine torn knee ligament will tear the other side within 6-9 months.

Stem Cell Therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

Stem cell therapy and PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) are collectively termed regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine is a new, exciting field in veterinary medicine.

In simplest terms, regenerative medicine is the process of replacing or rebuilding diseased tissue through the use of certain cell constituents.

Some veterinarians currently recommend stem cell or platelet-rich plasma during or in lieu of surgery to further enhance healing of the stifle.

Regarding cranial cruciate ligament tears, the best philosophy is to offer a variety of treatment options to you, the pet owner.

Tailoring treatment options addresses the unique needs of your pet and family. Tailoring treatment options also minimizes the emotional stressors of making a big decision.

You must consider the following variables:

  • Your pet’s activity level
  • Size and age of your dog
  • Conformation of the back leg
  • The degree of knee instability
  • Cost of the chosen treatment

Surgical procedures for cruciate ligament tears are among the most commonly performed orthopedic procedures in veterinary medicine.

Deep thought and consideration are necessary for a successful outcome for you and your pet.

Proactive Ways to Help Your Dog’s Ligament Challenges

There are many quick and easy changes you can make at home to help your give your dog an edge on easing tendon and ligament challenges.

Get A Phone Consultation with One of Our TCVM Veterinarians


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