The cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) is an important stabilising ligament inside the knee (stifle) joint that may sometimes rupture (or tear) in our active dogs and cause pain and lameness.  It is one of the most common reasons for surgical intervention in veterinary practice and can end up being a painful affair for you and your canine companion.

In vet school (a lifetime ago) we were taught about the 3 F’s that predisposed our furry friends to rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament: Five (years old), Female and Fat. While this may seem a little unfair towards out middle-aged, tubbier pooches (and current research indicates a far more complicated combination of predisposing factors); studies do show that there is definitely a relationship between factors such as bodyweight, breed and age, and CrCL rupture.

Having said that, is this really all there is to CrCL rupture?  Are our predisposed pups destined for pain and suffering, or is there something we can do to prevent it?

Taking a holistic view of pet care, there are many areas where preventative interventions may have a definite and positive impact on the joint and ligament health of our dogs. An obvious area is diet.  And not just diet in relation to weight control, but also in terms of long-term joint and ligament protection. Are the foods we feed our dogs meeting these needs and providing the essential nutrients required for optimal joint health?  The information available to us as vets and you as pet owners around the topic of a balanced diet is vast and, honestly, somewhat overwhelming. But whether you are purchasing a commercial diet, or preparing your own meals for your pup, it is vital that we do not forget the essential minerals that play a crucial role in joint and ligament support, such as Manganese (Mn). This seldom-discussed element is a key role player in ligament strength as it activates the enzyme that builds collagen. The resilience of these already at risk ligaments can be undermined by a diet deficient in this small factor, and this may be part of the reason that your already predisposed pal ends up with a CrCL tear.  Poor quality diets that have processed out the micro-minerals such as Mn may be adding to the likelihood of our dogs succumbing to this injury.

Now that I have added to that overwhelming list of things you can worry about as a responsible pet-parent, let’s look at some tools to ensure that our pets are receiving the correct amounts of these micro-minerals. Remember, too much can be as bad as too little and, as in all things, balance is key. So remember to always ask your veterinarian for advice before altering or supplementing your pup’s diet- especially if your dog is suffering from another medical condition or is on a prescription diet.

According to laboratory data, healthy adult dogs require 0.11mg of Mn per Kg of body weight in their diet every day. Most commercial pet foods do not declare the amounts of micro minerals in their diets as this is not a legislated requirement.  So it is difficult to know if there is a shortage.  Home-made diets may also end up slightly deficient in Manganese so supplementing moderate amounts is advisable.

Manganese can be found in egg yolks, kidney, and liver and, if feeding these products raw to your pet does not appeal to you, there are some useful recipes for fun doggy treats that can include these ingredients (an internet search will reveal a wealth of exciting options).  Most vet clinics will also stock vitamin and mineral supplements in powder or capsule form.  This can be added to your pet’s food daily to ensure a balance of all essential nutrients and to give your dog a fighting chance of avoiding ligament weakness and damage.

Alas, sometimes a CrCL rupture will be unavoidable and surgical intervention will be required.  Your veterinarian will advise you on post-surgical management and there is much that can be done to ensure that that joint returns to full function and does not shorten the life-span of your dog. Visiting an animal rehabilitation specialist or physiotherapist is highly recommended to avoid post-op complications.

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The Pet Owner Blog by Dr Megan Kelly