10 Common Back Leg Injuries in Dogs
by Justin Girdler |
Dogs are naturally playful and active. They love to run, explore, and jump whenever they go out. A dog’s playful nature is one of the many things we love about this precious creature. But it can also make canines prone to injuries, including hind leg injuries.
In this article, we’ve layed out some of the most common hind leg injuries in order to help you understand what your dog might have experienced.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Hind Leg Injuries?
You can find out whether your pet has rear leg injuries in many ways. Start by watching how your dog moves, or listen for audible cues, paying attention if they whimper or cry. Your pet may have hurt its hind leg if it:
- Looks and acts weaker than usual
- Becomes uninterested in their favorite activities
- Has bruises or swelling on their leg
- Whimpers and wails from pain
- Limps or staggers while walking
- Has decreased range of motion
- Moves with their bones clicking or cracking
What are the Most Common Back Leg Injuries in Dogs?
Some breeds of dogs can experience certain injuries due to their size and body build. For example, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Saint Bernards are breeds most susceptible to a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury. These larger breeds tend to put on excessive weight, causing additional stress on their hips and joints.
Additionally, less physical activity and an unbalanced diet can increase a canine’s risk of injury. To help reduce that risk, make sure your pet gets frequent exercise and consumes healthy food.
If you need help identifying a specific hind leg injury, we’ve listed the most common ones below. We have also categorized these rear leg injuries in dogs by location: ankles, knees, and hips.
Achilles Tendon Injury
The canine Achilles tendon is also known as the common calcaneal tendon. It is made up of multiple tendons from different muscles in the hind limb to comprise the Achilles tendon.
Achilles tendon injuries can be:
- Traumatic - injuries caused by lacerations, blunt force trauma, or overstretching the tendon.
- Atraumatic - chronic and degenerative injuries. Among dog breeds, Labrador retrievers and Doberman pinschers are most prone to atraumatic Achilles tendon injuries.
Generally, dogs can limp and have some or excessive swelling around the injured area. But you may also see a canine walking “flat-footed” or “dropped,” with the toes curled downward (known as a crab claw stance). Your pet may curl its toes when every part of the Achilles tendon, except the superficial digital flexor tendon, has ruptured.
Sprains & Strains
While dog leg sprains and strains may seem similar, both are completely different injuries. But before we dive into what makes sprains and strains different, let’s talk about ligaments and tendons.
Dog ligaments connect bones to a joint, while tendons connect bones and muscles. So if your pet overstretches or tears any of its ligament, it will result in a sprain. But if this injury happens on a tendon, your canine can experience a strain.
Additionally, slips, falls, or jumps can cause strains in dogs and injure their hips and thighs. As for sprains, they can result in joint damage and often involve their ankles and knees.
If you see your pet limping, it may have strained or sprained its rear leg. Recurring or extended lameness will need immediate veterinarian attention, as it can be a sign of a more serious condition.
These involve fracturing the tarsal bones of the foot of the dog. Causes can vary from the normal wear and tear of repetitive actions, to sudden impact and compression. This condition can cause pain and swelling on the affected foot, and your dog will have difficulty putting weight on it. Tarsal fractures can either be micro or stress fractures, or complete fractures.
You’ll find a dog’s tarsal bones between the crus (lower leg) and metatarsus (metatarsal bones). If your pet experiences acute trauma or sprains their tarsal joints repeatedly, they can eventually become fractured.
Tarsal fractures can happen when your pet:
- Overextends a joint
- Experiences internal or external injuries to its limb
- Has weakening ligaments
- Is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or another immune-mediated condition
Symptoms of these fractures may include a dropped stance while your pet walks, pain, swelling, and popping, clicking, or crackling from the injured leg.
A dog’s hock is equivalent to the human ankle. It’s located on the rear leg, under your pet’s knee. The hock connects the tibia and fibula (shin bones) to the talus and calcaneus (the bones in your canine’s paw).
If your pet always runs or jumps often and lands the wrong way, its hocks may get injured or damaged. A slipped hock is one injury that can affect how the joint functions. It happens when the hock flexes incorrectly by hyperextending or collapsing forward as it moves. In turn, a slipped hock can cause fractures or become dislocated, affecting the balance and mobility of your pet.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease (CrCLD) or CCL Injury
The cranial cruciate ligament helps stabilize the inside of the knee of your dog. When this ligament ruptures, your canine may limp and feel pain, or eventually develop knee arthritis.
CCL injuries can involve a partially or completely ruptured cruciate. Torn ligaments pull back and weaken, or they can’t be rehabilitated completely and need special medical attention. If left untreated, a torn CCL can worsen and lead to arthritis and other diseases.
Moreover, 40 to 60% of dogs with CrCLD on one knee will experience the same condition in the other knee, since they will often compensate for the injured knee by bearing more weight on the other healthy leg.
The meniscus is the C-shaped cartilage in a canine knee that distributes force and friction within the joint. The meniscus can eventually wear out due to constant stress. If your canine is always on the move and does a lot of jerking actions, it may get a torn meniscus. Meniscal injuries can also happen when your pet falls and twists its legs.
Canines with a torn CCL can get an injured meniscus, increasing pain and lameness. After the CCL tears, your pet may move as if it hasn’t limped. But when the affected joint becomes unstable, the canine will limp again. You may also hear clicking sounds coming from a free section of the ruptured meniscus as your pet moves.
A luxating patella is essentially a dislocated kneecap. The kneecap moves out of the groove on the thigh bone. Smaller breeds like the Maltese, Chihuahua, French poodle, and Bichon Frise tend to experience a luxating patella.
Patellar luxations can be mild, moderate, or severe. If your pet moves its knee and the patella gets dislocated, mild luxations will follow. The kneecap may also go out of place every time your canine uses its knee, leading to moderate or severe luxation.
Genetics, excessive growth, types of exercise, improper weight, and unbalanced nutrition can cause this rear leg injury. Hip dysplasia can affect canines as young as four months or develop in dogs with osteoarthritis. Some symptoms you should watch out for include:
- Reduced activity and range of motion
- Swaying and “bunny hopping”
- Enlarged shoulder muscles, if the canine is using them instead of its hind legs
Large dogs, including Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers, and German shepherds, are more likely to have hip dysplasia.
Hip luxation happens when your pet dislocates one of its hip joints. This can be caused by severe trauma, rigorous physical activity, or repetitive stress. Dogs with hip dysplasia are also more likely to have hip luxation.
If your pet has a dislocated hip, it won’t bear any weight on the injured limb. The affected leg might also look off and be at an odd angle. Additionally, your canine may limp and cry in pain because of this injury.
Pelvic fractures are the cracks in your dog’s pelvic bones. They make up 25% of the fractures that veterinarians and surgeons treat.
Most pelvic fractures stem from major trauma. A fall from a high place, a car accident, or another accident can break your pet’s pelvic bones. Lameness usually follows pelvic fractures.
What Should You Do if Your Dog’s Hind Leg Hurts?
If you feel that your dog has injured a rear leg, we encourage you to visit a veterinarian right away. The vet will perform various physical exams on your pet to check its overall condition and determine suitable treatment options.
At home, limit your pet’s mobility and prevent reinjury. You should confine them to a small space, and prevent them from jumping up, or playing with other dogs. Keep your dog from going outside, except for bathroom breaks. And use of a sling may be recommended to assist their movement. Massaging the injured area can help ease your pet’s stress as well. Depending on the injury, you can apply dry, cold packs and ensure your dog gets enough rest for a quick recovery. Joint supplements, like fish oil, can be incredibly effective in long-term, preventative care for your pet.
Diet can be incredibly important as excessive weight alone can also cause rear leg injuries. Put your dog on a diet and help manage its weight to prevent future injuries.
Lastly, if you have concerns, consult your local veterinarian. If you leave an injury untreated, it can worsen over time and develop into various complications or diseases.
Speed Up Your Dog’s Recovery with Lick Sleeve
A dog’s playfulness can hurt any part of its body, including the back legs. Knowing the most common rear leg injuries and their accompanying symptoms ensures that your pet recovers smoothly.
After veterinary treatment, your dog may lick its injury or surgery site to relieve some pain and discomfort. This too, can worsen their condition. Lick Sleeve has the most comfortable, water-resistant, durable and breathable sleeve on the market, to prevent harmful lick, and help your pet recover better.
These steps will help prevent potential complications from your pet licking it’s injured leg. Make sure your canine stays healthy and happy. Learn more about how to prevent common injuries in dogs and recover better on the Lick Sleeve blog today.