A Quick Cup of Knowledge Blog




5 Tips for Examining a Cruciate Tear

Dr. Brian Beale gives some little-known tips for examining a common orthopedic issue—the cruciate tear.

Veterinarians receive basic orthopedic training, but sometimes the most common cases can be tricky or need a more thorough examination. Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS, speaks to Dr. Natalie Marks in a Quick Cup of Knowledge video, “Orthopedics,” about tips in specific situations requiring orthopedic care.

Joint issues are seen as the most common problem, especially cruciate tears in dogs. The reason why cruciate tears are so difficult is that 50% of tears are partial tears, and when the examiner checks for instability, the leg will appear completely stable despite it being partially torn. Dr. Beale provides these 5 tips for what to consider in examining and treating a cruciate tear:

  1. Gait Exam — Take the time to do a gait exam. If the dog walks too fast to tell which leg is lame, take a video on your phone and watch it frame by frame.
  2. How the Dog Sits – Watch the dog as it sits. When the dog does not sit square but has one of the rear legs out to the side, it is a key indicator that the dog may have a cruciate tear.
  3. Size and Age Doesn’t Matter – A common misconception is that cruciate tears only happen in older, overweight dogs. In fact, it happens in dogs of all sizes and breeds. It especially happens to immature dogs, before 1 year of age, and in large dogs, 1 to 4 years of age. Don’t discount a cruciate tear because it’s a young and athletic dog.
  4. If One Tears, Another Will Follow – If there is a tear in one leg, it is highly probable that they tear another leg. It would be wise to pay careful attention and to explain this to the client.
  5. Don’t Wait for a Full Tear – It is often thought that a partial tear doesn’t need to be treated until it becomes a full tear. However, even in a partial tear the dog develops arthritis. It is better to treat a partial tear and have less arthritis and better functioning for the rest of the dog’s life.

Dr. Beale says, “I am convinced that almost any veterinarian can become a proficient surgeon and do very well at orthopedics.” All that is needed is a little hands-on training, and everyone knows that veterinary school is only the start to a veterinarian’s education. That’s why Dr. Beale teaches CE courses where participants can learn in a hands-on environment and come away with real practical knowledge.

Learn more about the kind of courses Dr. Beale and others teach at

Also, watch Dr. Beale and his colleague Dr. Jay Griffin get excited about the orthopedics course they’re teaching with Dr. Poteet on an Alaskan cruise in “Destination CE”!

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Topics: Veterinary, WVC, 2019, CE, Quick Cup of Knowledge, Continuing Education, WVC Academy, Smal Animal, Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. Brian Beale, Orthopedics, Cruciate Tear, Veterinarian


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