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Cruciate Ligament

The cruciate ligament is located in the knee and helps to stabilise the joint. It is made up of a tough band of fibrous tissue which attaches to the femur and connects to the tibia. Its purpose is to prevent the tibia moving forwards relative to the femur which stops the joint from over extending or rotating. Cruciate ligament damage can degenerate slowly over time as the fibres start to fray and weaken. Genetic factors, sudden trauma, obesity, hormone imbalances, sudden twisting or pressure on the joint and breed predisposition may all play a role.

When the ligament becomes torn it is a sprain and graded as follows:-


Grade 1 - minimal tear, likely to  heal with activity restrictions in place and reviews of the dogs daily routine (ADL’s).

Grade 2 - partial tear, which can easily progress to full tear so management of the dogs daily activities is crucial.

Grade 3 - complete rupture and surgery will be required.

Grade 4 - complete rupture and the ligament takes with it small pieces of bone which again requires surgery.


When the cruciate ligament is damaged it allows the femur to slide down the slope of the tibia causing pain and weakness when any weight is put on the joint. It also often damages a pair of cartilages called the menisci as the femur can crush and tear them as it slides down the tibia.

Symptoms of Cruciate Ligament Damage


  • Limping

  • Inflammation

  • Heat around the joint

  • Pain

  • Pottery gait

  • Difficulty in getting up

  • When standing the dog will hold the affected leg in a partial bent position (flexion)

  • Not weight bearing at all

  • Stifle held out (abducted) to the side when sitting/standing

  • Muscle weakness and decrease in muscle mass

How massage can help


  • Relieves pain

  • Decreases odemena

  • Stimulates endorphin release

  • Improves circulation and lymphatic flow

  • Relaxation of muscle tension and spasms

  • Helps improve areas of overcompensation

  • Helps reduce stress and anxiety

  • Increased muscle strength

  • Decreases fibrosis by relieving contracture of connective tissue

Contraindications to massage

  • Ice should be used for an acute sprain until the initial swelling goes down then massage may be used.

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