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Dogs tend to get themselves into trouble, no matter what you do. Whether it be a minor sprain or strain, or something much more severe, injuries in dog knees and elbows sometimes are inevitable with an active animal who runs on all four limbs. Thankfully, because injuries happen, we are experienced in treating them!

Forelegs (Front Legs) Explained

dog forelegs and elbows

Below the chest, in the back of the front leg, ‘sits’ your dog’s elbows. Not only is this the first joint in a dog’s leg, but it created a lot like human elbows! Made up of three bones, the radius, ulna, and humorous, a dog’s elbow is a ‘ball and socket’ joint, like ours.

Hind Legs

dog hind legs and knees

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, a dog’s anatomy differs a bit from a human’s here. The dog’s knee is located at the front of the hind leg, just below the upper thigh, and works much as our knees do. The lower thigh is beneath the dog’s knee, stretching down to the ‘hock’, or that joint that creates a sharp angle at the back of our dog’s legs.

A dog’s hocks can be related to ankle joints in humans. 

Common Knee and Elbow Injuries in Dogs


Other than poor nutrition and excess weight, this is the most common leading cause of joint injuries in dogs.

Sprains or ligament tears result from damage to or twisting of the dog’s ligaments, tissue connecting bones.

Ligament tears can also contribute to cartilage damage, which in turn can lead to arthritis.

If your dog’s joints are noticeably swollen, there is a loss in the range of motion, your dog is limping, favoring a limb, or sudden lameness, take your pet to see a veterinarian for a diagnosis and further treatment.


Signs of a fracture (break in the bone) can include pain, localized swelling at the site, the leg lying at an unusual angle, refusal to bear weight on the fractured limb, or refusal to walk altogether.

There are many various types of fractures, not all severe or outwardly obvious. If your dog is favoring a limb, carrying it above the ground when walking, or you notice any unusual swelling, contact your veterinarian.

Generally, fractures need a minimum of at least 4 weeks in young puppies and 8 in older adults to heal, but this depends on the case. Without treatment, a mild break might heal on its own.

Without treatment it may not heal correctly, can contribute toward arthritic conditions, become infected, may require amputation, or need to be re-broken and set.

Always contact a veterinarian if you suspect a broken bone.

Dog Elbow Dysplasia

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Basically, this means abnormal development of the dog’s elbow joint, causing damage to the cartilage on the surface of articulating bones. This can lead to arthritis, causing elbow pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, this is common, especially in larger and older dogs.

Common Signs and Symptoms

  • Lameness 
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to run, jump or other athletic activities
  • Reduced weight bearing on the limb
  • Loss of thigh muscle
  • Swaying gait

How to Prevent Canine Elbow Dysplasia

Because this is so common, steps to prevent dog elbow or dog knee Dysplasia should begin during puppyhood. Most importantly, feed your pup a balanced, nutritional diet from the beginning! If you care for a large breed, consult with your veterinarian regarding a meal plan to prevent excessive or rapid growth. This allows the dog’s joints to grow and develop regularly, without placing excess strain on them. 

Unfortunately, Dysplasia in dogs is a hereditary condition, most often seen in larger to giant breeds, such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs (AKC). Things like rapid growth, excessive weight, types of exercise, and poor nutrition can only amplify the condition.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Also called degenerative joint disease, this is caused by long term cartilage degeneration (often due to trauma/injuries) around dog joints, and is unfortunately permanent.

Older dogs or overweight/obese dogs are at the highest risk. 

Primary DJD has no known cause, but secondary DJD can be caused by any kind of joint trauma, unusual defects, and abnormal wear to the dog’s joints. Hip or elbow Dysplasia (listed above) can be caused by

Osteoarthritis, dog kneecap or shoulder dislocation, and unusual development of the dog’s bone and/or cartilage.

Again, obesity is a leading contributor, adding excess stress on the dog’s joints.

Signs of Arthritis

  • Occasional lameness
  • Decreased activity
  • Stiff gait, worsening with exercise

Steps to Avoid and Treat Dog Osteoarthritis

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Obesity or excess weight plays a large role here. Again, it couldn’t be more important to ensure a healthy, nutritional diet! In fact, diabetic dogs are at a higher risk for osteoarthritis, which can arise from a poor diet.

Medically, treatment is designed more to control symptoms, rather than provide a cure. Surgery may be recommended to relieve your dog’s symptoms. Physical therapy is often recommended and can be very beneficial. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat the pain your dog is experiencing.

Canine Osteochondritis Dissecans

Affecting male dogs about five times as often as females, lesions, and inflammation on the smooth cartilage in between your dog’s joints lead to pain and discomfort with this condition. Again, this is more common in larger breeds and rapid growth is a big contributor and is often hereditary. Excess stress on a growing dog’s bones, restricted blood flow around the dog’s cartilage, poor nutrition, and weight problems can also contribute.

Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the condition when taking x-rays.

How to Recognize Osteochondritis in Your Dog

  • Limping
  • Favoring a certain limb when walking
  • Shoulder, elbow or knee swelling
  • Pain when extending joint

Osteochondritis Treatment for Dogs

Restrictive ‘bed rest’ is prescribed to very young dogs, lasting between 4-10 weeks. In this case, your veterinarian will tell you to limit walking unless for bathroom breaks. Though it may be hard for a puppy, no running, jumping or other forms of strenuous physical activity will be allowed.

In about 60% of cases, the cartilage in your dog’s joints will heal on its own.

Once the dog’s knees and elbows are fully healed, the dog can go back to enjoying playtime physical activity!

Meanwhile, Surgery is reserved for more extreme cases, or when the above method hasn’t worked. The vet will remove loose bits of cartilage and repair the lesions that have developed. After the surgery and bed-rest lasting a few weeks, nearly all dogs make a complete recovery with 100% function! Unfortunately, the surgery can run excess of $2,000, so following the above approach as closely as possible is important.   

Stem Cell Treatment for Dog Knees and Elbows

Owners often are struggling to choose the right treatment for injuries in their dog knees and elbows. There is no doubt that quality is the number one criteria. However, resources have a strong impact on choice too.

The one treatment that is both result and cost-effective is Canine Stem Cell Therapy. Let’s break it down.

Stem cells are cells that naturally occur in your and your dog’s body. Their assignment is to maintain a stable state of the tissue and protect our organisms. By repairing damaged cartilage, bone tissue, cells and preventing further cell deterioration. Also, by decreasing inflammation. All these things are attributable to the above-mentioned causes of lameness.

Sometimes cells in specific places need help from additional stem cells. Especially in older dogs. This is when Stem Cell Therapy comes in. Within the simple procedure, a veterinarian injects cells into the injured place. Afterward, cells move deep down to the damaged cartilage or tissue and regenerate them as well as decrease inflammation. Thereby, Stem Cell Therapy helps to prevent pain, lameness, stiffness, discomfort, and other problems that came along.

Stem Cell Therapy tends to show faster, more effective, and long-lasting results than other treatments.

However, it is often recommended to additionally use other treatments to gain better results.

After all, if you are looking for help to end your dog’s suffering contact us! Medrego’s experienced team is ready to answer your questions about your dog’s health problems, and ways of how Stem Cell Therapy can help with dog elbow and knee injuries!

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