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The dog’s knee joint – why it’s particularly prone to joint problems & how you can strengthen it as a dog owner

The dog’s knee joint is probably the most complex joint in the dog. In addition, along with the elbow and hip joints, it is one of the joints of the dog’s body that is subjected to the greatest stress. As you can imagine, the combination of complexity and stress makes it susceptible to injury and wear and tear disease. Knee joint dog

The anatomy of the knee joint – this is how the dog’s knee is built Knee joint dog

The dog’s knee joint is formed by the thigh, tibia, fibula and kneecap. So much for the bony components. If you consider that most joints consist of only two or at most three joint partners, you can already see the complexity of the construct “knee joint” here.

To provide stability to this complex joint with its various bones, it is stabilized by various components. These include the joint capsules, the menisci, various muscles and the patellar ligament. There are also two lateral ligaments that prevent lateral bending and two cruciate ligaments that stabilize the knee forward and backward.

The kneecap plays an important role. It is a sesamoid bone and is embedded in the patellar tendon. When the knee is extended and bent, it slides in the gliding groove of the femur.

Healthy movement of the knee joint thus requires smooth interaction between these many joint-forming and joint-supporting components.

But this is not always the case. The dog’s knee is prone to injury and joint disease. Among the most common are cruciate ligament rupture and patellar luxation. I would like to briefly discuss these two clinical pictures below to give you an overview of the most important facts.

Common diseases of the knee joint knee joint dog

Patellar luxation

You’ve probably seen the most noticeable sign of patellar luxation yourself in breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier: shaking of the hind leg while walking. It is often dismissed as a tick of the dog.

What happens in patellar luxation?

In a healthy knee joint, the kneecap slides in the glide groove when the leg is bent and extended. In patellar luxation, on the other hand, it slips out of the glide groove either laterally or centrally during movement.

One reason for this may be that the glide channel is not deep enough. Furthermore, the kneecap may be too small or too large. As a result, it does not fit properly into the guide. In addition, connective tissue structures such as ligaments, tendons and the joint capsule are often too weak and provide too little support.

In dogs, 3/4 of the time the patella slips medially. This usually happens with small dogs. At 1/4, it slides outward, i.e. laterally. This mostly affects large dogs.

Patellar luxation is divided into four degrees of severity, which also influences the type of treatment.

Patellar luxation – the causes

The most common cause is that it is inherited. However, it can also develop and be aggravated during the young dog’s growth phase due to improper diet or excessive exercise. In a few cases, trauma can also cause patellar luxation. Knee joint dog

The cruciate ligament rupture

Cruciate ligament rupture is one of the most common diseases of the canine knee joint and is diagnosed more and more frequently thanks to progressive diagnostics in the veterinary field. In the case of a cruciate ligament tear, it is usually the anterior cruciate ligament that tears.

The trigger for the cruciate ligament rupture: usually a minor trauma such as a wrong movement, a stumble while playing with another dog or stepping into a hole in the ground. Knee joint dog

How does a cruciate ligament tear – the causes knee joint dog

It is believed that there is a genetic predisposition that promotes premature and progressive wear of the cruciate ligaments. This continuously provides small tears in the cruciate ligament due to weak ligament tissue. Now the minor trauma comes into play again: at some point, one wrong movement is enough and the cruciate ligament is torn. Thus, the trauma, like a stumble in the game, is only the trigger.

Fatal is that in many dogs also at the second knee in the course of time by overloading in the healing phase the front cruciate ligament also tears. If the cruciate ligament is torn or ruptured, the knee joint becomes unstable. In a very short time, arthrosis develops and the menisci are also damaged. Inflammation occurs in the knee joint. The joint capsule swells. The dog does not want to use the barrel anymore. Often the situation improves again after 2-3 days of rest, followed by further aggravation and lameness. A cruciate ligament tear is a joint injury that requires acute treatment. Knee joint dog

Which dogs are often affected by cruciate ligament rupture?

Medium to large dogs are often affected and a genetic predisposition favors premature wear of the cruciate ligaments in many cases. But also factors such as overloading and incorrect loading, as well as overweight, promote a cruciate ligament tear in dogs.

Extra tip for your dog with cruciate ligament tear

Your dog suffers from a cruciate ligament rupture and does not want to put any weight on his hind leg after the cruciate ligament rupture? There is a very helpful tip: put a hair tie around his affected hind leg (above the paw). This makes him aware of his leg and thus supports him to use all four runs equally again. Knee joint dog

Preventing joint damage in the knee – this is how it works

Knee injuries are usually complex and take a long time to heal. Therefore, if possible, you should try to avoid them. This does not mean packing the dog in absorbent cotton. Even though genetic factors also play a role in patellar luxation and cruciate ligament rupture, factors such as obesity, poor diet and excessive stress or lack of warm-up in sports have an influence that should not be underestimated. Even a very simple arthrosis can result from this. So it makes perfect sense to avoid movements that put a lot of strain on the knees. This includes movements that trigger shear forces in the joint, such as tight slalom or tight turns. But jumping into the car is also an intense strain on the knee joint.

Excess weight should also be avoided at all costs, as this leads to immediate overloading and possible damage to the joint. Pay attention to the optimal composition of nutrients in the food for the growing dog.

Ways to strengthen the knee joint knee joint dog

It is important to have stable muscles that provide good relief for the joint while giving stability. At the same time, it is important to maintain the mobility of this complex joint. There are simple exercises that you, as a dog owner, can easily incorporate into your daily routine to ensure this happens. Knee joint dog

Active exercises for stable knee joints knee joint dog

A stable musculature always provides protection for the structures of a joint. In active movement training, there are a variety of exercises that can be used to strengthen the knee joint and hindquarters. This includes, for example, cavaletti training that you can do yourself with your dog. In a simplified variation, you can do this by sitting on the floor, spreading your legs slightly, and then letting your dog slowly step over your legs. Begin the exercise with 2-3 repetitions. More important than quantity is that your dog performs the exercise slowly and as correctly as possible. Non-slip surface is indispensable for movement training.

Food supplements

In principle, it is useful to support the joints of the dog with dietary supplements. Since they are natural products, the effectiveness or their intensity is individual. To nourish the joints, for example, green-lipped muscle extract is recommended.

Your dog suffers from knee problems? – this is how you can support him

In addition to various supplements such as collagen peptides or the like that support the recovery of the joint, you can also support your dog with knee pain, for example, with a simple quark wrap. This relieves the pain and also the inflammation in the knee joint. Knee joint dog

If your dog suffers from knee problems, I recommend that you take him to your veterinarian in any case. Knee injuries are often complex and the later they are treated, the greater the risk of secondary damage.

All the love, your Tina!

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