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Cruciate ligament disease

Cruciate ligament disease

Limping or pain in your dog’s back legs may be a sign that they've got cruciate ligament disease. 

What is cruciate ligament disease?

Cruciate ligament disease is a condition affecting the stabilising cruciate ligaments within the stifle (knee). The injury may be to the cranial (front) cruciate ligaments or the caudal (rear) cruciate ligaments. 

Cruciate ligament disease may occur secondary to acute injury but is often degenerative. It may be referred to as cruciate ligament rupture/tear, cranial cruciate ligament disease or caudal cruciate ligament rupture. The injury to the ligament may be described as a complete or a partial tear. 


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Which pets are most affected?

Large breed and giant breed dogs are generally more at risk of cruciate ligament disease, but any breed of dog can be affected. It is uncommon in cats. According to PetSure data (2019-2020), cruciate ligament disease most commonly occurs in dogs between three and seven years of age. 

According to PetSure data in 2020, cruciate ligament disease is most prevalent in the following breeds: 



Australian Terrier


Australian Bulldog




Bichon Frise




Dogue De Bordeaux




Japanese Spitz


West Highland White Terrier 


American Bulldog


Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of cruciate ligament disease

The main sign of cruciate ligament disease is lameness (or limping) on the affected leg. Limping is a sign of pain. It may be very mild and even intermittent in nature. 

In an acute cruciate ligament injury, the dog may yelp and avoid putting any weight on the affected leg. The stifle (knee) may be painful to touch, warm or swollen. In chronic cases, the affected leg may show signs of muscle wastage. A dog with cruciate ligament disease may be less willing to play and exercise. 

Diagnosing cruciate ligament disease

Cruciate ligament disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Your Vet will take a thorough clinical history and examine your dog. 

They may check the stability of the knee through tests such as the cranial drawer and tibial compression test. Some tests may need to be performed under sedation or anaesthetic. Your Vet may recommend X-rays or a CT scan. 

Management of cruciate ligament disease 

Surgery to stabilise the stifle is often the recommended treatment for cruciate ligament disease. Your Vet may recommend an Orthopaedic Specialist to perform cruciate ligament surgery. There are several different surgical techniques, and your Vet will recommend the most appropriate one for your dog. 

Medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and chondroprotectants (which are drugs that help protect cartilage) are used in the management of pain and to help with healing. Strict rest and weight management form part of management of cruciate ligament disease. 

Dogs with cruciate ligament disease, almost always have Arthritis as well. Therefore, life-long management is often necessary to help keep your dog happy, pain free and mobile. 

Many dogs need a second surgery for meniscal tear, a common secondary complication of cruciate ligament disease. It is also common for dogs to have cruciate ligament disease in both knees.

Your Vet will be able to recommend a plan to manage your pet’s cruciate ligament disease. If you are concerned that your pet may have a cruciate ligament problem, reach out to your Vet for advice.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data in the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to Cruciate Ligament Disease was $756 with the highest, single treatment cost being $13,323.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

Petinsurance.com.au is general insurance issued by the insurer The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) (Hollard); is promoted and distributed by Pet Insurance Pty Ltd (ABN 38 607 160 930; AR 1234944) (PIPL) and PIPL’s authorised distribution partners (including Pet Culture Group Pty Limited ABN: 69 644 613 098; AR 001284860) (PetCulture) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) (PetSure). PIPL and PetCulture are authorised representatives of PetSure. Any advice provided is general only, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the product disclosure statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold, Petinsurance.com.au Pet Insurance.

Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Bei Bei
Bei Bei