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What is Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament?

The knee is a weak point in your cat’s body and is subject to injury and other damage. This is especially true when stress is put on the joint due to injury or pressure from jumping from heights or from awkward positions. When the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears, this is known as a rupture. The rupture can cause pain, limping and a variety of other side effects, including permanent joint defects. This condition is more common in dogs but does also occur in cats.

The cranial cruciate ligament is a connective tissue located in your cat’s knee that helps stabilize the joint in order for proper movement of the legs as the surrounding muscles flex. This ligament is one of the most important structures of the joint. In humans, this ligament is known as the ACL.

Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament Average Cost

From 521 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Cats

Symptoms of CCL rupture in your cat tend to be acute, meaning that they will come on suddenly as the result of injury/rupture. Pets, and cats in particular, however, do not have the same sensitivity to pain as humans. Signs to watch for include:

  • Limping
  • Unwillingness to jump or move
  • Swelling in knee joint
  • Heat in knee joint
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Causes of Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Cats

The cause of a CCL rupture in your cat is either a full or partial tear in the canine cruciate ligament, located within the knee. Without this important structure, the knee suffers from instability. CCL ruptures most often occur as a result of injury, such as a sudden movement or torsion of the leg. This can occur especially in cats when their legs become trapped or when they suffer a large fall or collision with a vehicle or other object. Cats that are overweight also are more susceptible to CCL ruptures due to the additional stress on the joint.

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Diagnosis of Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Cats

Your veterinarian will diagnose a cranial cruciate ligament rupture in your cat with a complete physical exam. Your vet will cautiously manipulate each of your cat’s limbs to check for swelling or injury. Your vet may also want to observe your cat’s gait by allowing them to walk across the vet office floor. Cats suffering from CCL injuries tend to have a distinctive type of limp that can help pinpoint this injury.

Your vet will next perform something called a drawer test. This will involve the manipulation of your cat’s knee joint in an attempt to produce movement similar to that of a drawer pulling out. In a joint with a healthy, intact CCL, this movement is not possible. This test may be difficult if there is a great deal of swelling or if your cat is in tremendous pain.

Finally, your vet will perform x-rays or MRI imaging. While x-rays alone cannot identify a CCL tear, they can show abnormalities in the surrounding tissue, such as from arthritis, which is a common sign of a CCL rupture especially in chronic cases or cases in which limping has been a long-term issue. In the case of injury, this will also help rule out any additional broken bones.

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Treatment of Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Cats

There are two main treatment options for a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament in your cat. The first is a conservative approach. This is often used when a partial tear is suspected or when a cat is too old or is otherwise a poor choice for surgery. In this treatment, your cat will be given medications for pain and anti-inflammatory drugs and the surrounding tissues in the knee allowed to heal. Since ligaments have poor blood flow, they themselves do not regenerate. However, scar tissue may build up around the area which can assist in compensation for the lack of stabilization as a result of the torn CCL. This approach is not recommended for very young or active animals, since it can lead to chronic pain and injury and doesn’t withstand a great deal of movement.

The second treatment option is surgery. There are many surgical variations that have been developed in recent years. These options involve various methods of creating an artificial ligament or replacement stabilization of the joint using permanent sutures that are connected to the bone of the knee. These procedures tend to be highly effective in cats given their light weight.

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Recovery of Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Cats

Proper rest and restriction of movement while your cat heals will be crucial to its long-term recovery. For several weeks to months after surgery, your cat will need to be confined to a small space, with limited movement. Jumping, running or other jolting may disrupt the healing process or cause additional damage. Your vet may also recommend physical therapy for your cat, which may involve stretching of the limb and various exercises either at home or in a pet rehabilitation office.

The prognosis for recovery of your cat, if the proper treatment protocols are followed, is very good.

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Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament Average Cost

From 521 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,000

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Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Short Hair

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Limping

Hi! My cat Winnie partially tore her ACL falling/jumping from her kitty tower. The vet said surgery wasn't necessary as it wasn't fully torn and that we just needed to restrict her activity for two weeks. But everything I'm reading suggests much more time than that? Should we stick to two weeks? The vet also said nothing about going back for a check-up. Additionally, we are restricting her activity by keeping her in a large dog crate. Is it okay to let her out of this and walk around? Or is it really best to keep her in the crate 24/7? Thank you!

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she tends to be a very active cat, a longer time for cage rest would probably be better, yes - until she is not limping anymore, sometimes a month or two. If she tends to be quieter, you may be able to let her out sooner. Cats do tend to deal quite well with ACL injuries as they are quite light. It would be a good idea to call your veterinarian and ask about a recheck, and just touch base with them on how she is doing. I hope that all goes well for her!

Aug. 1, 2020

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Laurelei

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Domestic cat

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

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Limping, Swelling In Leg

My cat was just diagnosed with a completely disrupted medial collateral ligament and chronic luxation. The vet surgically put the joint in place and put the leg in a splint, the gave me the diagnosis and says he recommends another surgery to remove the leg. Is this really the route to go? Please help.

July 23, 2018

Laurelei's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I cannot see how amputation would be the best course of action after surgery for this condition, although I do not know any details about Lauralei's situation. Since amputation is such a permanent solution, it may be a good idea to either get more details from your veterinarian as to why he thinks that needs to happen, or get a second opinion. Cats can often live comfortable lives with that injury, so there may be other options.

July 23, 2018

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Bruce

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domestic short hair

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat was diagnosed with a torn ACL. I currently have him in a huge dog crate with all his needs. I am wondering how long I should keep him in here, if he can heal himself or if I should have the surgery? I did have him on a 3 day antiinflammatory and still on pain medication and now I have joint supplements. He is only 2 will he walk normal again? Sorry so many questions I just care deeply about him.

July 18, 2018

Bruce's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Cats can often recover from that injury without surgery, as they are light and don't put that much weight on that leg. It can take weeks, though, and he may have to stay in the crate for an extended period of time. Since I can't see him or examine him, and don't know the extent of his injury, it would be best to call your veterinarian who saw him and get their recommendation on how long to keep him confined - they may want to see him for a recheck periodically to reassess him.

July 18, 2018

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Trixie

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short hair

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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My cat had cruciate ligament surgery a week ago and seems to be recovering well. He is confined to a crate and is really distressed by this. He is an active outdoor cat. Is there any alternative to this total confinement for 4 - 6 weeks (ie a cast to support the knee) as he is so miserable (and so am I)?

May 16, 2018

Trixie's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Rest is best, you really don’t want to be allowing Trixie to move around with or without a cast (a cast is not the wonder people believe it to be) as it wouldn’t be in her long term interest; I know you cannot explain to her why she needs to be confined but it wouldn’t be forever. Keep her confined as you’re doing and follow up any appointment you have with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 17, 2018

Thank you for that advice. Trixie is meowing so much and I am so upset by this experience. Will it be ok to let him out the crate for periods of time so long as he doesnt jump?

May 19, 2018

Trixie's Owner

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Mittens

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short hair

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Limping

I am very upset. My cat is 4 years old and had ACL surgery in January. She went to post OP appointments and everything was perfect. She was walking around regularly and feeling fine. Now it is Mid March and her leg is up again and she is limping. She is not an active cat whatsoever. Could it be re-ruptured? Could it be arthritis? I cannot afford another surgery and if she does get one, what are the odds that she won't heal again?

March 14, 2018

Mittens' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. If Mittens is not an active cat, it is unlikely that she re-ruptured her ACL, but there can be post-operative complications, infections, or problems that need to be resolved. It would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian, and they will probably want to take an x-ray, but they can examine her, determine what might be going on, and give you an idea as to what might need to happen. I hope that it is something minor and easily resolved.

March 14, 2018

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tabby

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Medium hair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Our two year old cat is limping, staying off her right back leg, can't jump up anymore. Took her in and they took x-rays. She has significant arthritis in both back legs. They think she may have a torn CCL in the left, but can't tell why she is lifting up the right. Why would a cat who is still young have arthritis? How much does this surgery cost to repair a CCL? What questions should I prepare for the surgeon? Any advise welcome.

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Trooper

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Ginger and white tabby

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Lameness, Inactivity, Sleep

My baby Trooper has had occasional repetitive lameness in his hind right leg. Over the years it has been noticeable 3-4 times. The most recent time, I again took him to the vet as he pretty much hadn't moved from his softy cushy bed at the back door, for 3-4 days. All from just jumping off his bed (as he did every day) for his dinner (bed less than 3 feet height). I hoped it wasnt a dislocated hip, but was surprised at the cruicate ligament diagnosis just from a wiggle-around prior to xrays. (Surprised as it's not common with cats yet this was our second (non-related) case. Our first experience was with Holly aged 2 at the time) Trooper is 11 and has had replacement ligament surgery just last Thursday. Unbelievably and to more horror than be imagined, yesterday while trying to get him out for more pain meds, he went straight up over my daughters shoulder and out a slightly opened window (that we inadvertently forgot, being such a hot summers day, we had them all cracked open). My bedroom window is the highest in the house (1.5 stories). You can't believe the horror. I was so very relived and stunned when he was sitting on our back steps less than half hour later and I was able to get him back into the cate. First thing this morning, we were at the vets to make sure everything was in place and the op hadn't been undone. I really was beside myself. Thankfully, knee is stable, and tho a few extra days on pain relief, we look to be ok. He's one extremely lucky little fella!! Next check up Friday (it's Monday now).

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Niko

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Bengal

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping, Sw
Limping, Swaying

My Bengal Cat is 6yrs old and diagnosed with ACL year and arthritis in hips. Took him to vet due to limping. (Oddly enough, on his other leg, which is fine according to xrays). He is not a good candidate for surgery. He does not appear to be in pain, but must be, as I’m reading here. Vet believes this is an old tear. Wouldn’t some kind of pain medication or brace help him ? (Although he’d probably tear off any brace). I had asked the vet, and he said no, but not sure why. I will be calling him again, but just wanted opinion on this. I’m imagining with both problems, after awhile, he won’t be able to walk ? Will this be soon, or will he be on for awhile ?

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Crystal

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Brown tabby

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17 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Strange Walk
Strange Walk, Cried When Picked Up

My 17.5 yr old little girl caught her claw in a small rug, and pulled in down on top of herself. Didn't think much of it until she began walking very strangely. Then she cried when I picked her up. She was diagnoised with CCL of the hip. She's too told for surgery, so she's on pain meds. I make sure she walks, and bought her steps to get in an out of the bed. I rub her hips and legs as she will let me. I do believe she is still enjoying a good quality of life, just moving very slow. I am in hopes it will get better with time.

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Miu

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tabby

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Question regarding the recovery: My cat recently had a procedure to repair this cruciate ligament tear. The procedure involved changing the angle of the joint and fixing it with a plate. They have told us that he should now stay confined in a cage for 6 weeks, is this true? I have been letting him out into a small room a few times a day where he can walk around but he can’t jump onto anything. Is that ok for his recovery?

Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament Average Cost

From 521 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,000