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Knee injuries are common in working dogs
We hear about athletes tearing their ACLs or suffering other knee injuries all the time, and the same is true for canine athletes. Working dogs like Newfoundlands and Labrador retrievers commonly suffer knee injuries, and those that compete in agility exercises or other competitions are also likely to experience some sort of pain or injury.
Large dogs may have genetically unstable knees, and their size and weight only makes them more prone to an injury there. Agility, herding or other competing dogs are prone to this type of injury because they make quick turns, sudden stops, high jumps and repetitive movements. That said, it is easy for any dog to injure its knees because they are really not all that stable to begin with. The knee is stabilized internally with two ligaments, called anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), that form an X.
When a human injures his or her knee, the common solution is to get surgery to fix it. As common as ACL injuries and surgeries are in humans, they are even more common in dogs. Canine ACL repairs are done five times more often than they are in humans, even though we have the same unstable structure in our knees. While canine ACL surgery is effective, another knee surgery called a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, is not often recommended. In this surgery, a veterinarian changes the angle of the top of the tibia leg bone.
Surgery is a bit of a risk in terms of whether it will help your pooch. Statistics from insurance companies have shown that only about 20 percent of dogs experience improvement in their knee condition six months after any knee surgery. If the knee isn't repaired from an injury, it will likely develop arthritis, which will require pet drugs like Metacam or Previcox to relieve your pet's pain.
The best thing to do if you own a large, working breed or compete with your pooch is to prevent a knee injury from happening. Never overfeed a puppy, as too-rapid growth can cause strain on the joints. In addition, limit your dog's performance until it is at least 1 year old – no jumping higher than its elbows or other strenuous movement.
Putting your dog on a chrondroprotective is also a good idea if it is a large breed or will spend most of its life working or competing. Cosequin and Glyco-Flex are great options that protect a dog's joints before any damage is done. Research shows that joint injuries are less severe and heal faster if the dog was on a medication like this. They also have glucosamine for dogs to support healthy cartilage in the joints.