It's officially summer and that means lots of outdoor time with our pups! Recently, I've noticed a rise in CCL injuries in dogs. The CCL, or Cranial Cruciate Ligament, is responsible for stabilizing the knees in the back leg. This injury is very much akin to a torn ACL in humans. These ligaments are incredibly important for proper knee function and when a dog injures one, it can mean surgery and total bed rest for up to a month.
Some breeds are naturally predisposed to these injuries (Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, etc) and sometimes these injuries happen because a dog is out of shape. Overweight dogs are more prone, as are dogs that only get strenuous exercise occasionally. The best way to combat CCL injuries is to keep your dog at a healthy weight and use caution when exercising.
Vets are very good about telling owners that their dogs are carrying too many pounds. If it's been awhile since you've taken Rusty to the vet, one of the ways you can check your dog's weight is by squeezing his sides a little. You should be able to feel the outline of his ribs when you press down. If you have a fluffy dog, make sure to dig your fingers underneath the fur to check. If you can't make out any ribs, chances are that your pup needs to lose a few.
Other important ways to prevent this injury are to warm up your dog before exercise and to exercise your pup often. It's quite common for us as owners to try and squeeze in all of our dog's play time on the weekends. This can be a bit rough on our pups. It's kind of like a football player being in the Sunday game without practicing all week or warming up. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise on a regular basis. Start with a daily walk and build up to a walk plus a few minutes of fetch or hide-n-seek. When you take him for a long Saturday hike, let him walk on even ground for a good ten minutes or so. Also, be careful when going from your air conditioned car or home straight into vigorous activity in the summer heat. Warm muscles and ligaments perform better than cold ones. Try a short walk before a raucous doggie playdate. And be sure he stops for water! Some dogs get so excited for their weekend activities that they overdo it and forget to drink enough.
If your pup does succumb to a ligament injury, there is a good website that has a lot of information on the subject... check out www.dogkneeinjury.com
Be careful this summer and don't forget to have a blast with your furry pals!