Dog Cruciate Ligament Damage: Surgery vs Knee Brace

Although we always wish for our pets to lead a long and healthy life, sometimes life just doesn’t work out that way. With dogs, cruciate ligament injuries are common in the hind leg region as they like to run about jumping from one piece of fun to the next. Think about a knee brace to prevent injury on a weak leg or support an injured one

Dog with knee / cruciate condition


Generally speaking, there are two main causes or reasons as to why this injury can occur in our canine friends. Firstly, they could get a rear leg stuck in a drain or hole. With not enough time to react, the front half of the body continues to walk whilst the rear half is stuck in place; this pulls all the force towards the cruciate ligaments and injures the dog.

As the second type of injury, this is more of a long-term issue where the ligament stretches over time. Especially in large breeds because of the excess weight, the ligament is under more and more pressure until it eventually tears.

As the owner, a ruptured ligament is quite easy to spot because your dog will hold the leg up to prevent putting weight and pressure on the damaged ligament. If you see your dog limping, or maybe they’re reluctant to exercise, this could be a sign of a slow stretch so please contact your vet as soon as possible.

As you may be able to tell from the title, there are two main options you can take here; surgery or conservative management (physiotherapy and knee brace). Which is best? Well, we cannot answer this question definitively because it can vary case-by-case. However, we can look into both options and assess the considerations your vet will make.


Before we head into the options for surgery, we should note that your dog’s injury can be either partial or total. Your vet will assess the damage before suggesting the right solution. In extreme circumstances, if conservative management is no longer working, different types of surgery will be available by using internal support such as a plate (with screws) or a tie rope (mimicking the ligament).

Knee Brace

First and foremost, we should mention that knee braces are fantastic in the weeks after surgery for overactive pets because they provide the external support your dog will need during recovery. After a stifle injury and hind leg surgery, a brace can keep the joint stable as it begins to strengthen with light exercise.

However, there are other times where a dog knee brace is the chosen method going forward as opposed to proceeding with surgery. If the owner cannot afford surgery or perhaps the dog is too old and anesthesia is too risky, the vet may steer clear of this option and advise a knee brace instead. By supporting the joint, the knee brace should help to alleviate pain and make walking more bearable.

In conclusion, a cruciate ligament injury can be devastating for your dog but there are now solutions to the problem. Depending on whether you have a small, medium, or large breed, as well as the medical history of your pet, your vet will suggest the best solution in surgery or knee braces or even a combination of the two.

With this in mind, there’s every chance they’ll be back on their feet in just a few months and you can help this along by introducing a light exercise program. If you spot an issue at any point, please get in touch with your vet as soon as possible!