Dogs love to lead active lives, bounding through the woodland or chasing balls through the park. But as a dog owner, it’s important to remember that your dog isn’t invincible. This active, outgoing lifestyle often leads to knee problems in dogs.
Awareness of symptoms and effective prevention tactics are key for dog owners. The two most common knee injuries are torn cruciate ligaments and patellar luxation in dogs.
We’ll explore these dog knee injuries and how to spot them in more detail in the article below.
Where is a dog’s knee?
A basic understanding of dog knee anatomy can help owners spot potential injuries and sources of pain in their dog.
Yes, dogs do have knees, but while the dog knee plays a similar role to the human knee, its anatomy is slightly different. The dog knee is more accurately described as a joint and is located on the rear (or hind) legs of a dog.
Also known as the "stifle," the dog knee joint connects the dog’s lower thigh, which consists of the tibia and fibula bones, to the upper thigh, which then connects to the hips. The tibia and fibula connect lower down to the hock, also known as a dog’s ankle. The hock then connects to the feet and the paws.
The patella works as the doggie kneecap and protects the knee joint. The joint connects to the dog’s thighs through cruciate ligaments, or more specifically, the cranial cruciate ligaments (CCL.) These dog knee ligaments are strands of tough connective tissue that essentially allow for movement.
Dog knee injuries
While a dog’s knee is tough and well protected, it’s heavily relied on for movement and support. It’s, therefore, prone to injury, particularly if your dog has an active lifestyle.
There are two typical dog knee injuries, which all breeds of dog can suffer from:
- Patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap)
- Torn cranial cruciate ligaments
These injuries can cause pain, discomfort, and lack of movement. While there are ways to ease dog knee pain, it’s important to remember that you should always call or schedule a visit with the vet for treatment if you suspect your dog has an injured knee.
Patellar luxation occurs when the patella (or knee cap) becomes dislocated (or luxates.) This dog dislocated knee injury can cause movement problems, so it’s important that you see your vet if prolonged symptoms remain.
Smaller dog breeds, such as chihuahuas or Boston terriers, are more prone to patellar luxation than large dog breeds. Dogs will experience varying degrees of patellar luxation. In some cases, your dog may learn how to kick the leg to the side, causing the knee to hyperextend and allow the knee cap to simply pop back into place.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Constant licking around the knee
- Swelling around the knee
- Difficulty holding weight on back legs
Your dog will experience pain in severe cases, in which instance luxating patella surgery may be necessary to fix the problem for the long term. After surgery treatment will involve a dog knee brace for luxating patella.
Patellar luxation can be challenging to prevent, but smaller breeds are more disposed to it than others. In this case, watch for your dog to start showing symptoms. If they do, cut down on strenuous exercise, and contact your family vet.
Torn cranial cruciate ligament
The cranial cruciate ligament is the tissue holding the knee joint in place, and a torn CCL in dogs can be a severe and painful injury. If left untreated, minor cranial cruciate ligament tears can become exaggerated and lead to lifelong difficulties or pain when walking.
Larger breeds of dogs with more weight to bear (and overweight dogs of any species) are more likely to suffer from a torn cranial cruciate ligament.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Swelling of the knee
- Inability to hold weight on back legs
Because the symptoms are very similar to a luxated patella, it’s important to seek veterinary advice if you believe your dog has a knee joint injury. Cranial cruciate ligament dog surgery is often needed to repair the ligaments. Still, you can prevent injuries by keeping your dog’s weight down, as obesity is the primary cause of tearing.
Depending on your dog's breed and size, the vet may only recommend rest and anti-inflammatory medications for six weeks to two months. This regime would then be followed up with a very gentle exercise program to rehabilitate the leg.
How can I help my dog’s knee injury?
Prevent injuries by keeping your dog fit and healthy. Monitor their weight, avoid obesity, and keep them healthy through regular activities and exercise.
CCL surgery can be painful afterward, so you also need to be prepared for the recovery of any dog knee surgery. You can help by setting up a doggie bed ramp to assist in post torn knee ligament dog surgery recovery.
Dog knee injury: always see your vet!
It’s great practice to learn more about the anatomy of the dog knee and the potential injuries that can affect dog knees. As an owner, you can help prevent these injuries and spot the symptoms of luxating patella or strained or torn cruciate ligaments.
However, it’s essential to report that you should always see a vet, as the problem might be more significant than your dog lets on. Some injuries require dog knee surgery. Recovery time and rest are essential for a full recovery.
Why not bookmark our guide to dog knee problems and prevention to help give your dog the care it deserves?