Keep Your Dog's Knees Safe and Healthy

Chronic Wear Takes a Toll

For dogs who are older, obese or both, the ligaments can just give way. Because these dogs are usually far less active, their problems may be overlooked or written off as “he’s just old,” or “she doesn’t like to walk much.” By the time these dogs get to the veterinarian, they may have already developed arthritis in the affected joints. Surgery is most likely just part of the answer for these dogs. After surgery, they will need to be reduced to an ideal weight and maintained there, and they may need to have nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for life to deal with arthritis pain. Additionally, these dogs may be at high risk of rupturing the ligaments on the opposite knee, which is likely also in poor shape.

After-care means pain control and strict leash-walking for potty breaks only, followed by a gradual return to a more active life. Hydrotherapy and other rehab measures may also help and are becoming more common.

Prevention Is Preferable

While the ability of veterinarians to restore function to knee joints has improved a great deal with new techniques, it’s better to avoid injury. The number-one thing you can do? Keep your dog at an ideal weight, and keep him conditioned, to help the muscles better support the knee. Exercise that includes leaps, mid-air twists and awkward landings is not as good as low-impact endurance training, such as swimming and putting in distance at a trot.

If your dog comes up lame, don’t let days or even weeks go by waiting for the injury to heal on its own. If a cruciate ligament injury is ignored, your dog will eventually regain limited function in that leg, but it won’t be the same. Even worse: The long-term effects of arthritis mean nonstop suffering for your pet.

Nobody wants that, so see your veterinarian at the first sign of lameness.


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