I have an 18-month-old black Lab named Jessie. When she walks around, I can hear a clicking noise coming from her rear legs. Any idea what it may be? Should I get our vet to look at her? Our previous dog ended up blowing her cruciate ligaments in both rear legs, and I hope this poor dog does not have the same problem. Thank you in advance.
A clicking sound in the back legs is not good. It may be the cruciate ligament or a damaged meniscus (a small cushion in the knee). However, I would expect Jessie to be limping if she has damaged either of those.
Another possibility, especially in a young, large-breed dog, is hip dysplasia. In young dogs with hip dysplasia, there is laxity in the joint because the ball and socket do not fit together well. This results in the ball of the femur knocking around in the socket of the pelvis, which can result in an audible “click.”
If Jessie does have hip dysplasia and it is diagnosed early enough, she may be eligible for an interventional surgery called a TPO (triple pelvic osteotomy), where the pelvis is cut, rotated and pinned back in place. The purpose of rotating the pelvis is to provide better coverage of the hip over the ball of the femur, thus minimizing the laxity in the joint and slowing or sometimes even preventing the progression of hip dysplasia and the resultant debilitating arthritis that occurs.
Unfortunately, if it is the knee and the cruciate ligament, Jessie will need to have surgery to correct that as well. Regardless, you should take her to see your veterinarian for a thorough orthopedic consultation and some X-rays.
If Jessie does have some form of orthopedic disease at this young age, there are some things you can do to help maintain her quality of life and mobility in the long run. In general, you will want to strongly consider keeping her weight very trim (to where you can visually see her last few ribs). Excess weight puts a lot of strain on the joints and is associated with the development of early arthritis.
In addition, placing her on a supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin as well as fish oil (high in omega 3 fatty acids) would be beneficial at supporting her joints over her lifetime.
With regards to exercise, you do want to keep her moving, but avoid high-impact exercises that involve jumping or running for long periods. Water exercise is great for dogs with joint disease because it maintains their joint range of motion and muscle development without any damaging concussive forces on the joints.
– Dr. Hoag
PHOTO: Sherry Main