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Cruciate Ligament Tear in Cats

cruciate ligament tear cats

Cat Torn ACL

You’ve most likely heard of people having a torn ACL; it’s quite common in athletes and even everyday people doing certain activities. But your cat can have a torn ACL as well. When this happens it can be a scary experience but by having some knowledge on the condition, you’ll have a better idea of what to do to help your cat heal and be pain-free.

Here is what you need to know if this happens to your cat. What causes it, what you can do, how it is diagnosed, symptoms, and home care.

What is a Cat Torn ACL?

First, let’s look at what an ACL is in a cat. This is the cruciate ligaments in the cat’s legs that are located in each of their knee joints. These two bands of fibrous tissue form a cross and connect the tibia and the femur.

According to VCA Hospitals:

One ligament runs from the inside to the outside of the knee joint and the other from the outside to the inside, crossing over each other in the middle. The two cruciate ligaments are called the cranial cruciate ligament and caudal cruciate ligament. The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans.

How Does a Cat Tear an ACL?

While this is not exactly a common occurrence in cats, it does happen. This is because a cat’s knee joints are their weakest area. There are none of the interlocking bones that give it more steadiness so it is typically an unstable area. Since it has several ligaments that hold it together, if the knee joint is twisted, this can cause the torn ACL.

This often happens when a cat jumps from a high place and puts a lot of stress on that joint. It can even happen if the cat jumps in an awkward position. Think of any situation where the cat may twist the leg or put extreme pressure on it and that is how this can happen. And again, it doesn’t happen often (it’s more common in dogs) but when this does happen it is known as a rupture of the ligament.

Even playing hard or cats that are older and have weakened joints from age are at risk.

What Are the Symptoms of a Torn ACL in a Cat?

The symptoms of a torn ACL in a cat are very easy to spot. They include:

  • Limping
  • Unable to put leg down
  • Lameness in leg
  • Bad pain that the cat will vocalize about

If you suspect your cat has a torn ACL it is imperative to seek the care of a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is so that not only can the ACL be taken care of but so that your cat is not in further pain or does more damage to the leg.

How is it Diagnosed?

With this type of injury, it is typically from a fall from a high place or in some cases, an accident involving an automobile. Although in certain instances, the injury is secondary. Meaning that the cat had something already in place like a kneecap that slips out of place, which is called a luxating patella. If the cat is in extreme pain as is normal with an ACL, the vet may have to use sedation in order to examine its joint.

The vet will need to conduct a thorough examination and may need x-rays to fully tell if that is the problem.

How is a Torn ACL Treated in Cats?

Treatment depends on a couple of factors. For younger cats, there are surgical options where there can either be a replacement to the torn ligament with an artificial one or what is called replacement stabilization. This is where permanent sutures are used to connect the bone of the knee. This is a very effective procedure since cats are usually very lightweight. Another benefit of surgical options is that this repairs the damage. Yet, there is another advantage to this. It also minimizes some of the risk of future arthritis issues.

In cats that are elderly or those that do not make a good candidate for surgery, there are other options. In these cases, the tissue is allowed to heal on its own and the cat is prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medication. With this more conservative approach, there is the risk of scar tissue building up helps. Keep in mind that this may be a good choice for cats that only have a partial tear as opposed to a full tear of the ACL. One thing to note is that these ligaments do not regenerate the aforementioned scar tissue is actually helpful. It can assist with a lack of stabilization.

And while vet visits and treatment for a torn ACL may be expensive, by having pet insurance you have more leeway in making the right decision for your cat.

Cost to Treat: $2,000 to $4,000

Home Care

After your cat has seen a vet and you have decided on treatment options, there are a few things you can do at home. Cats with a torn ACL should have limited exercise for three to six weeks. Those that are overweight should be given a special diet since extra weight puts unneeded pressure on the joint that is already damaged.

A regular checkup by the veterinarian can give you information on how well your cat is doing after his treatment. And of course, make sure your cat gets its medicine as prescribed to help with the pain and the healing.

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