The canine stifle joint consists of three bones in the hind limb; it is where the upper and lower bones of the leg and the patella meet. The stifle is considered to be the knee of the canine hindlimb; however, it looks a little different from the human knee.
The dog’s “knee” is a little higher up in the leg than in humans and will appear to be just below a dog’s torso when they are standing. Similarly to the human knee, the stifle is a complex system of many bones, ligaments, and tendons that all must work together properly.
This complex joint is important when it comes to your dog’s mobility, and injuries at this location can cause pain and difficulty moving around.
Canine Stifle Anatomy
If the stifle can be comparatively considered like the knee, then the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is to dogs what the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is to humans (1, 2).
The CCL is important in maintaining stability in the stifle joint, however, over time, the cranial cruciate ligament can degenerate and become weak, eventually stretching, tearing, or even completely rupturing. When the weakening of this ligament occurs, the bones can begin to grind together, damaging the cartilage and leading to osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs, and it can lead to extreme pain for your dog (3). When ligaments fail and joints don’t operate properly, the grinding of bone on bone leads to degradation of the cartilage, reduced lubrication, and eventual damage to the bone.
When these painful results occur, an arthritic dog will likely begin to show symptoms such as limping, being slow to get up and down, and being reluctant to exercise. Once a dog has osteoarthritis, treatments may include pain relievers, rehabilitation therapy, and even tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery. However, these are mainly for the management of pain and to improve quality of life.
Once cartilage has been severely damaged it cannot be completely repaired. Therefore, it is important to help support your dog’s joints throughout their life to lower their chances of developing osteoarthritis.
Preventing Stifle Arthritis in Dogs
- Each dog should be fed a well-balanced diet that is formulated for their stage of life in order to promote proper bone and joint development, especially for large breeds. It is critical to keep your dog lean and at the proper body condition, because obesity can place undue stress on the joints.
Proper exercise (without too much concussion on the joints) can actually promote range of motion and decrease stiffness (4).
- Joint supplements, like RocketDog’s Canine Cush can be fed throughout the life of the dog to promote health and wellbeing. Ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid support joint health and cartilage regeneration, while CBD can reduce inflammation.
Take Home Messages
- The stifle of the dog is comparable to the human knee and is one of the most important joints for locomotion.
- If the cranial cruciate ligament in the “knee” begins to degrade, it can lead to osteoarthritis, which may cause pain and difficulty moving.
- By providing the proper food, exercise, and maintaining your dog’s weight you can help prevent osteoarthritis.
- Going one step further, providing a supplement like Canine Cush can help promote healthy joints and lead to a long and healthy life for your furry friend.