KneeInjury1As groomers we see many dogs that have knee injuries and we must ensure that we provide the correct care when grooming these dogs. Two of the most common injuries are Patella Luxation and Cruciate Ligament damage. Both these conditions can cause lameness and be extremely painful - the dog may even struggle to walk.

Apart from giving your dog a healthy diet, and ensuring young dogs are not over-exercised, there is not a great deal you can do to prevent these injuries. However the treatment can be extremely effective. A Patella Luxation can be easily fixed in surgery. Cruciate Ligament damage is more complicated as the condition here has to be managed for the entirelty of the dogs life.

Patella Luxation

The Patella is the knee cap. It is held in place by strong ligaments and protects the joint and aids movement. The kneecap runs in a groove called the Trochlear Groove over the femur (thigh bone) as the dog moves his hind leg.  The Patella can slip out of the groove causing pain and lameness - this is most common in smaller breeds.

Patella Luxation usually occurs from the knee joint not developing correctly. The groove that the kneecap sits in can sometimes be too shallow, and/or the ligaments might not develop in the right place and be too weak.

Cruciate Ligament damage

Cruciate Ligaments connect the femur and tibia (shin bone) in the dogs knee (stifle joint). There are two cruciate ligaments, called the cranial and the posterial, which cross over each other inside the knee joint. It is usually the cranial cruciate ligament that becomes damaged or ruptured causing the knee to be unstable. However, it is possible for both ligaments to break down.

The exact cause to these injuries has not been proven but evidence does suggest that genetics, over-exercise and obesity play their part. As humans we often incur knee problems because too much force is put in this area when exercising. This can be the case with some dogs but in most cases hereditary and degenerative changes cause the problem.


Cruciate problems are caused from the ligaments wearing down over time. If the dog has either condition in one leg it is highly likely that it will occur in the other leg at some point. In short to summarise symptoms include:

  • Sudden lameness
  • Limping or hopping
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Holding a leg off the ground
  • A swollen knee
  • Struggling to get up from a sitting position.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your dog will need to be examined fully at your vets to determine what the problem is. X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans may be needed to confirm the condition. Depending on how severe the condition is your dog may need medication or an operation - careful management of the condition will be advised.  Recovery from a knee operation can take between 2-3 months and is often aided by alternative therapies like hydrotherapy. Dogs usually go on to living an active lifestyle.


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