As active dogs, Labrador Retrievers are susceptible to more orthopedic injuries than many breeds. The most common of these is Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) rupture. Located in a dog's knee joint, the CCL plays a key role in stabilizing the femur (thigh bone) on the tibia (shin bone) and allowing a dog to walk normally on his leg. When the CCL ruptures or tears, a dog will experience pain when he tries to use the leg.
What causes a CCL rupture?
Sometimes a dog will tear its CCL as a result of a traumatic injury, like twisting or wrenching the knee. More commonly, however, the ligament in slowly stretches and tears over time, resulting in chronic injury. When that happens, a dog might limp for a while but regain use of the leg—until a complete tear occurs and the dog will no longer put weight on the leg.
Watch for signs of a rupture
Limping is the most obvious sign that a Lab has potentially ruptured a Cranial Cruciate Ligament. If you see your dog limping, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Early treatment can reduce the possibility of cartilage damage and painful arthritis.
How CCL is treated
The choice of treatment depends on your dog's size and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will discuss the options with you. While surgery can result in full recovery for your dog, the recovery period is from 6–14 weeks, during which your dog must be kept quiet and controlled.
Medical experts believe Labrador Retrievers may have a genetic predisposition to this condition, yet the underlying cause for it is unknown. It is thought that controlling body weight can minimize the risk of this problem. Above all, watch your dog closely for limping or reluctance to bear weight on his leg. The sooner a CCL injury is discovered, the better.