Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease in Labradors

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Dog Anatomy

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is a band of tendons that connects your brain to your spine. The CCL helps stabilize the head during movement, and prevents it from falling forward or backward when you walk around. If the CCL tears, it could lead to a stroke or even death if not treated properly.

There are two types of CCL: anterior and posterior. Anterior CCL is located at the front of your skull near where your ear bones would be, while posterior CCL is located behind your ear bones near the back of your skull. Both types have different functions, but they both play a role in keeping the head stable during walking.

When one part of the CCL ruptures, it causes symptoms similar to those seen with a concussion or other traumatic injury.

In dogs, the CCL is usually found only in young adult dogs, though there are some older dogs that may have a partial CCL. A partial CCL is one that does not completely connect to the bone at the front of the skull. Dogs with a partially torn CCL will experience symptoms similar to those seen with a concussion or other trauma.

These symptoms include loss of balance and coordination, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, confusion and seizures.

Which Dogs Are at Risk?

Any dog is at risk of getting a CCL tear, especially large, fast dogs such as greyhounds, bulldogs and pit bulls. However, any dog can experience a CCL tear at any time in their lives, as it typically occurs when the dog is between the ages of 1 and 5 years old. There are certain factors that make a dog more likely to suffer from a CCL tear. Dogs that have short legs are more prone to CCL tears, as are overweight or obese dogs. Breeds such as greyhounds that are built for speed are also more prone to CCL tears, since they can pull hard on the head when they run. Dogs that have tight collars or harnesses for extended periods of time can lead to a rupture in the CCL, as can dogs that jump down from furniture or other high locations, especially if they don’t land properly.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The most common CCL injury seen in dogs is a partial tear, as this type of injury does not typically cause as many symptoms. Commonly, the dog will seem off-balance and have trouble coordinating their movements. They may stumble and fall often or have a general unsteadiness while walking that can’t be explained by other factors, such as floor surfaces or other gait abnormalities.

In some cases, the dog may experience nausea and or vomiting. In many cases, there are no symptoms other than an unsteady gait. If a dog has signs of trauma or another condition causing the unsteadiness, the veterinarian will perform further tests to rule out any other problems.

More advanced symptoms can include a loss of balance and coordination that is not caused by falling, stumbling or tripping. Dogs with these symptoms may experience dizziness, loss of consciousness, disorientation and or difficulty breathing.

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