Have you ever wondered whether dogs have knees? Although dogs walk on all four legs, they actually have two elbows and two knees with kneecaps, like humans. And it’s not just big dogs or older dogs that can struggle with knee problems. Knee problems are very common in dogs of all ages and sizes. 

At East Valley Animal Hospital, your pet’s health is extremely important to us. We help dogs with all kinds of knee problems by offering surgical and laser therapy services. Continue reading to learn more about common knee problems in dogs and the symptoms to watch for. 

Where is the knee on a dog?

A dog’s anatomy is complex, and it can be difficult for most people to differentiate between knee and hip problems in a dog. Because dog knees are located higher up on the leg, dog owners sometimes mistake a knee condition for a problem with the hips. Additionally, dogs are very good at hiding and masking their pain, so it could be sometime before you even realize that your dog is dealing with knee pain. 

Understanding where the knees are located on your dog can help you better identify symptoms and explain them to your vet. Dog knees (also known as stifle joints) are located on the hind legs, up towards the thigh, where they connect the femur and tibia together. 

There are 2 Common Knee Problems in Dogs

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Tear

Large dog breeds—especially those lacking core strength—are prone to a common knee problem known as a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear. The CCL connects the leg bones to the knee and allows movement. A torn CCL can result from a sudden injury or from chronic degeneration, and typically occurs in active dogs. 

If your dog tears their CCL, they will likely cry out and/or suddenly fall during an activity such as running or jumping. Or, they might lift one leg and be unable to place any weight on it. Although symptoms of a torn CCL may improve after a short time, it doesn’t mean the injury itself has improved. Without treatment, which is typically surgery, a torn CCL will only cause more damage and lead to arthritis in dogs

Dog breeds that are more susceptible to tearing their CCL include:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • German shepherds

Patellar Luxation

Another common knee problem in dogs affects the kneecap (patella). Patellar luxation occurs when the dog’s kneecap slips out of place. This condition is commonly present from birth in many small breeds, but it may affect large breeds as well. Symptoms may appear in puppies as young as four months old

Signs of patellar luxation include carrying the affected leg, or skipping a step when walking or running. Although the kneecap may slide back into place on its own, it’s important to have your dog examined so your vet can offer diagnosis and treatment to prevent further damage. Treatment may include physical therapy and/or surgery. 

The following dog breeds have a higher risk of patellar luxation:

  • Pomeranians
  • Chihuahuas
  • Boston terriers
  • Miniature poodles
  • Yorkshire terriers

Treatment for Dog Knee Injury in Gilbert

At East Valley Animal Hospital, we have over 40 years of experience in providing compassionate preventative and medical care for pets in Gilbert, Arizona. If your dog is experiencing any signs of a knee injury, schedule an examination as soon as possible. We’ll identify the cause of your dog’s pain and provide relief with expert treatment. Call us at 480-892-1577 to schedule an appointment.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/18/2022). Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash