Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is one of the most important orthopedic diseases taught to veterinary undergraduates. The complexity of the anatomy of the canine stifle joint combined with the plethora of different surgical interventions available for the treatment of the disease means that undergraduate veterinary students often have a poor understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of CCL rupture. We designed, developed, and tested a three dimensional (3D) animation to illustrate the pertinent clinical anatomy of the stifle joint, the effects of CCL rupture, and the mechanisms by which different surgical techniques can stabilize the joint with CCL rupture. When compared with a non-animated 3D presentation, students' short-term retention of functional anatomy improved although they could not impart a better explanation of how different surgical techniques worked. More students found the animation useful than those who viewed a comparable non-animated 3D presentation. Multiple peer-review testing is required to maximize the usefulness of 3D animations during development. Free and open access to such tools should improve student learning and client understanding through wide-spread uptake and use.