Common Knee Problems in Dogs

dog wheelchair for knee problems

Canine knee injury is the cause of 85% of all lameness in dogs. There are three common causes of canine knee problems: arthritis, cruciate injuries, and a luxating patella. 

Recognizing the Signs Your Dog Has a Bad Knee

There are many signs of a dog knee problem, a few of the most common symptoms  include:

  • Limping, can be constant or intermittent
  • Hind leg suddenly collapses
  • Unable to bear weight on back leg (or legs)
  • Sudden decrease in activity level
  • Difficulty standing up
  • Stiffness or swelling in the knee joint
  • Difficulty getting comfortable while sitting or lying down
  • Constant licking of knee

The 3 Most Common Dog Knee Problems

1. Arthritis

Arthritis can impact any joint in a dog’s body, although a dog’s knee is one of the most commonly impacted joints. Although old age often contributes to arthritis it’s not just an issue for senior dogs,  20% of dogs will show signs of arthritis by the age of 1. Although genetic risks play a factor, dogs with old injuries, high activity levels, weight issues, or some diseases can also contribute to the likelihood of becoming arthritic. A dog with a cruciate rupture is highly likely to develop knee arthritis. 

2. Cruciate Ligament Injuries 

There are two major ligaments in a dog’s knee or stifle joint, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). These two ligaments stabilize the knee joint. Cruciate tears can occur gradually over time and many dog owners won’t realize their dog has a knee problem until the tear becomes debilitating. A cruciate tear can be a partial or complete tear, these are more often called cruciate ruptures. A cranial cruciate rupture is the most common cause of hind limb lameness in dogs.

3. Luxating Patella

A patella luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap moves out of the groove it sits in to shift out of place or dislocate. A luxating patella can pop in and out of place quickly. When the kneecap is positioned incorrectly a dog may run with their back leg off the ground or with only a toe touching the ground. Once the knee is back in place, the dog will walk normally with no sign of discomfort. Most common in little dogs, a luxating patella will vary in severity depending on the frequency the knee shifts out of its groove, the severity of the arthritis, and the stability of the knee.

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