With all their running after playmates at the dog park and jumping onto couches to snuggle with humans, orthopedic injuries are common for our canine companions. And, knee injuries, like torn cranial cruciate ligaments and luxating patellas, are seen often. Our team has put together information that you need to know about your dog’s knees.
Torn cranial cruciate ligament
Similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the cranial cruciate ligament holds the bones of the leg into place. After chronic degeneration, the ligament can rupture or tear, causing pain and instability of the knee joint. An animal with a torn cranial cruciate ligament will experience difficulty walking on the affected leg because when they put weight on it, the bones will slide or give out a little.
This is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs, and treatment will depend on the size of your pet and their activity level. While a very small number of dogs will walk comfortably without surgery, surgical repair is usually required. During our consultation, we will discuss and recommend the appropriate procedure as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of irreversible joint damage and to relieve pain.
A patellar luxation is almost always a congenital defect that leads to abnormal forces on the patella (kneecap), which cause it to slide out of place. If your pet’s kneecap slides in and out of place, they may have difficulty putting weight on the affected leg, and you might see them skipping or kicking their leg to the side to snap the kneecap back into place. Pets with this condition usually do not show signs of pain.
If your pet’s case is mild, the patella may be able to be popped back into place on its own or by the vet during palpation. For more severe cases, the patella may be stuck out of place permanently, which would require a more advanced surgery to correct. The choice to go to surgery, and which type to have will depend on the specific issues your pet is dealing with. Toy, small, and bowed-leg breeds are most commonly affected by luxating patellas.
Preventing knee injuries in dogs
While some orthopedic injuries cannot be prevented, there are precautions you can take to decrease your dog’s chances of tearing their cranial cruciate ligament or experiencing a luxating patella:
- Maintain an ideal weight
- Some supplements (such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids) have been shown to help with maintaining mobility and slowing down the progression of arthritis.
- Encourage low-impact exercise, like swimming and controlled walking.
If your dog is showing signs of a knee injury, please contact us and we can help answer your questions!