Have you seen your dog spin tightly, or stop suddenly and their legs splay out from under them? This is a common thing for a playful pup, or one that lost its grip on a slippery floor. While it seems funny and adorable (and it is), it’s not the best for their knees.
A dog’s knee is a complex joint and understanding it is essential if your dog injures it. For instance, did you know that a dog only has knees in their back legs? A knee is a hinge joint that is relatively unstable due to its anatomy. It is held together by a key ligament called the CCL (cranial cruciate ligament, more commonly referred to as an ACL), which is where a majority of a dog’s injuries start. The CCL allows the dog’s knee to move forward and back, but not side to side.
Inside the knee joint are pieces of cartilage called menisci. A menisci is like a shock absorber between the femur and tibia.
Easy, right? It’s just like a human’s knee! There is one stark difference between us and our furry friends, however. A dog, like a human, has a femur and a tibia. It’s how the two leg bones rest on each other that’s different! In humans, the femur lays on a straight tibia (also known as the shinbone). In dogs, the tibia is always tilted!
That means a dog’s CCL (again, the ligament that holds the femur and tibia together in their knee) is always undergoing stress. This is why it’s easier for a dog to hurt their knees!
Now that you understand your dog’s knee, let’s take a look at some common knee injuries.
Dog Knee Injuries
The most common knee injury any dog can get is a tear or sprain to their CCL. They are most often caused by your dog twisting its knee too quickly, such as if they change direction too quickly while running. If your dog likes to do this, it means they’re placing a majority of their body weight on their knees.
Think of it like this: imagine (but don’t actually try) standing on one leg and twisting your body in one direction quickly. The strain you’re imaging in your knee is similar to what your dog will experience! Doing it too quickly, too suddenly, or getting caught mid twist could cause injury to your ACL and your dog’s CCL!
A cruciate ligament rupture is usually extremely painful and the knee joint becomes unstable, resulting in lameness.
However, there are three different types of severity to a CCL tear. You can read all about them in our past blog, When to Use a Dog Brace: Sprained vs. Torn ACL.
Excessive activity isn’t the only thing that puts your dog at risk for CCL injuries. Their weight is also a big factor! If your dog is overweight, a CCL sprain may occur due to minor trauma, such as stumbling over a rock while walking. This is because your dog is shifting extra weight onto their knees, causing more strain.
Patella luxation, which is also known as a slip knee, is a common problem, especially in small dogs. It can cause cartilage damage, inflammation, pain, and even ligament tears. But what is it?
Simply put, patella luxation is a dislocated kneecap. A slipping kneecap is when your dog’s knee often leaves the groove it is designed to fit into because the groove is shallower than it needs to be.
Oftentimes, the patella will slip out and then back in. Sometimes, it won’t fix itself and a vet should be involved to pop the knee back into place.
There are different grades of patella luxations that define the severity of it.
- Grade 1: The patella is able to be moved out of the groove but easily pops back by itself
- Grade 2: The patella moves out of the groove in the knee frequently. It may cause the dog to hold the affected leg up on occasion but it can be easily moved back. Because the patella slips in and out of the groove so often, trauma in the knee can occur over time
- Grade 3: The patella is out of the knee groove most of the time and the tibia, one of the lower leg bones, is moderately twisted
- Grade 4: The patella is permanently out of the knee groove, and the tibia is severely twisted. The dog will usually hold the leg up
How You Can Help Support Your Dog’s Knee
Knee injuries are extremely common and some, such as hereditary patella luxation, cannot be prevented. However, you can support your dog’s knee to help prevent CCL injuries and keep their leg and kneecap constrained.
Doggy Brace provides extra exterior structural support to keep the knee in place, stabilizing the weakened joint so that it performs correctly without the pain. The Doggy Brace is a kind of stifle brace that controls the backward slide of the tibia and femur that prevents these bones from sliding outside of the natural range of motion.
Using a Doggy Brace provides a number of benefits. It helps your pet protect their joint, assisting with pain and helping their mobility. In keeping the joint secure, it can also help keep the injury from worsening.
Check out Doggy Brace today!