How can I help my dog with bad knees? Here’s What to Expect

Q: What Kind of Brace Is Used While a Luxating Patella Is Healing?

A: There is a temporary brace that you can use. Instructions on how to make it are on YouTube. A brace is not always needed, and if your dog is very small and you can control her movements, then it will probably not be needed at all.

How Can a Trick Knee Be Fixed Without Surgery?

If your dogs trick knee is very mild, your vet can show you how to pop the knee back into place during his exam. It is easy to do if your dog is calm and not in pain. All you have to do to put the knee back in place is to straighten out the leg, massage gently and move the knee as you are massaging. I find that it helps a lot to talk to the dog and distract him so that he will be even more calm as you are doing this.

For more permanent results, however, you need to consider all of the following alternatives:

  • Put your dog on a severe diet so that he is not overweight, and definitely not obese: Besides living a shorter life, obesity will cause extra stress on all of his joints. Overweight dogs with trick knees will have more problems walking, and the arthritic changes to the knee will happen that much faster.
  • Walk your dog for a short distance several times a day: Exercise is good to treat many behavioral problems, and in this instance will also keep your dog physically healthier. Besides keeping off his excess weight, the muscles that hold his knee in place will be healthier.
  • Improved diet: A raw or homemade organic diet may improve overall cartilage condition and make all joints, including the knee, healthier. A raw diet can even be made with beef traches and chicken legs, which will add glucosamine and improve the condition of the joint.
  • Give glucosamine and chondroiton dietary supplements: These supplements improve the quality of the joint. They improve the cartilage and may even improve the fluid available in the knee. Some diets advertise the presence of chondroiton, but adequate amounts are only available in balanced raw diets.
  • Give added Vitamin C: This still needs a lot more evidence. Dogs produce vitamin C but the amounts are probably not enough to help with strengthening the ligament when your dog is affected by a trick knee. Doses have not been worked out but you should probably give your dog 1000mg a day (500 mg for a smaller dog), and preferably use natural sources like acerola.
  • Acupuncture: Consult a veterinarian who specializes in treating conditions of the knee.
  • Dogs with bad knees usually need restricted activity.

    Questions and Answers to Help Your Dog

    Here are some common questions about treating your dog.

    Help! My dog has a bad knee!

    Dogs love running after playmates at the dog park and jumping onto couches to snuggle with humans, these are some of the few reasons orthopedic injuries are common for our canine companions. Knee injuries, like torn cranial cruciate ligaments and luxating patellas, are seen often. Here’s what you need to know about your dog’s knees.

    Similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the cranial cruciate ligament holds the bones of the leg into place. After chronic degeneration, the ligament can rupture or tear, causing pain and instability of the knee joint. An animal with a torn cranial cruciate ligament will experience difficulty walking on the affected leg because when they put weight on it, the bones will slide and give out.

    This is the most common orthopedic injury in dogs, and treatment will depend on the size of your pet and her activity level. While some dogs under 15 pounds may heal without surgery, surgical repair is usually required, and we will recommend it as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of irreversible joint damage and to relieve pain.

    Patellar luxation is a congenital defect that leads to an abnormal amount of force on the patella (kneecap), which causes it to slide out of place. If your pet’s kneecap slides out of place, they may have difficulty putting weight on the affected leg, and you might see her kicking her leg to the side to snap the kneecap back into place. Pets with this condition usually do not show signs of pain.

    If your pet’s injury is mild, the patella may be able to be popped back into place or manually put into the proper position. For more severe cases, surgery is usually required. Toy, small, and bowed-leg breeds are most commonly affected by luxating patellas.

    While some orthopedic injuries cannot be prevented, there are precautions you can take to decrease your dog’s chances of tearing her cranial cruciate ligament or experiencing a luxating patella:

    We have a TPLO Surgery Page dedicated to information about knee surgery. If your dog showing signs of a knee injury please call our office 760-436-3215 and request an appointment.