Skip to main content

How to Prevent CCL Injuries in Labrador Retrievers

Why are so many retrievers prone to back-leg ligament tears?

How to Prevent CCL Injuries in Labrador Retrievers
Photo Credit: Ron Hutchinson

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is a band of connective tissue that keeps the femur and lower leg bones of our retrievers working in concert so they can run, jump and retrieve ducks. A dog that outright tears its CCL, experiences several micro-injuries, or simple degradation to it will soon not be capable of any of those things.

It can happen to any sporting dog, but for reasons that aren’t quite known yet, is way overrepresented in Labs. According to Dr. Ira McCauley, owner of McCauley Animal Clinic, it’s not even close. “When it comes to CCL disease, Labs are clearly predisposed. We see tons of golden retrievers, and plenty of Chessies, (Drahthaars) , German wirehairs, and other breeds, but it’s the Labs that are blowing their CCLs like crazy.

“There seems to be bloodlines out there where the cruciate ligament is too short to handle the performance the dog is going to give, and in those retrievers it’s just a matter of time. They’ll end up limping, often at a very young age, and we’ll give them 10 days to see what’s really going on. Oftentimes, it’s the torn ligament.”

There is a strong genetic component to poor cruciate ligament construction. This seems to be the case, but the downside is there are no known genetic markers (yet) to identify the bloodlines where the predisposed pups will come from. This means it’s usually a matter of asking questions about the parents and grandparents, but McCauley says that’s only going to be so valuable.


“We see dogs come from litters where this issue pops up all of the time. But the problem is the puppies are already born and bought before the issue shows up in the parents of the litter. You might already be committed to a pup with a predisposition to CCL without knowing it, and at that point it’s too late.”


What You Can Do?

Research into bloodlines is important for a litany of reasons, and possibly identifying a pedigree that might be prone to CCL disease is one of them, even if it’s far from an exact science. But, there are other ways you can maintain your duck dog that will keep them from an expensive operation.

“If a Lab blows one CCL, the chances are 50 percent they’ll blow the other. Retriever owners need to be aware of that, because it is very common and they are not cheap surgeries. Sometimes it’s unavoidable because dogs are going to run in the mud, jump off of stuff, and put themselves in multiple situations each hunting season where an injury could occur. That’s the nature of their lives," says McCauley.

There are some things owners can do to help dogs from blowing out a CCL. For starters, a dog that is allowed to lay around and put on extra weight is far more likely to injure himself when the hunting starts, which is just a matter of physics. The more weight they put on a joint, the more likely it is to tear. Keeping a dog in good shape all year round and exercising them correctly is huge.

Give your dog a glucosamine supplement, or feed them a formula that advertises glucosamine as an ingredient, if they are injured.


“If your dog has an injury and some inflammation because of it, then yes, glucosamine is a good thing. You won’t prevent a CCL tear in a dog that is built for the likelihood of it by giving him supplements or a specific formula of dog food, however.”

The recovery for CCL surgery is around six months, which means that for half of a year your hunting dog will be out of commission. If that dog happens to need both CCLs repaired, that’s an entire year on the bench.

Conduct your due diligence as best you can before plunking down a deposit on a puppy and then keep that dog in top physical health all year round and you’ll hedge your bets that your dog will stay in the field and off the operating table.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Prairie Potholes Region is alive with waterfowl and a perfect place to test a new shotgun.Testing the Savage Renegauge on North Dakota Waterfowl Stories

Testing the Savage Renegauge on North Dakota Waterfowl

Skip Knowles - May 19, 2020

The Prairie Potholes Region is alive with waterfowl and a perfect place to test a new shotgun.

We found Migra's shells to be plenty capable of taking down ducks and geese. A Closer Look at Migra Ammo Ammo

A Closer Look at Migra Ammo

John M. Taylor

We found Migra's shells to be plenty capable of taking down ducks and geese.

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting challenges we face.7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills How-To

7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills

Mark Romanack

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting...

A teacher made a $100 row boat into a bluebill's worst nightmare, and a dog's best friend.  Convert a Row Boat into a Bluebill Blind Boats

Convert a Row Boat into a Bluebill Blind

Mike Marsh

A teacher made a $100 row boat into a bluebill's worst nightmare, and a dog's best friend.  

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance.Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence Retriever

Gun Dog Nutrition & Intelligence

Tony J. Peterson

Nourish your pup's noggin for elite performance.

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.Basic Water Training for Your Retriever Retriever

Basic Water Training for Your Retriever

Bill Gibson

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.

The HSUS is putting bills into motion that could make hunting with your dog a criminal act.Hunting And Training Retrievers is Under Attack Conservation

Hunting And Training Retrievers is Under Attack

Jace Bauserman

The HSUS is putting bills into motion that could make hunting with your dog a criminal act.

See More Retriever

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now