Like humans, active dogs of all ages are susceptible to broken bones or ligament tears due to trauma or strenuous activity. For dogs who enjoy intense running or jumping, the small hock joints on the back legs can be particularly vulnerable to injury. Fortunately, there are many options to help treat canine hock issues so your dog has the best chance to make a full recovery.
What is a Hock on a Dog?
The canine hock joint, located on a dog’s back leg below the stifle (knee), corresponds to the ankle joint of a human. The hock creates that sharp angle at the back of the dog’s rear legs. While dogs don’t put any weight on their heels like we do, the two joints are comparable in function and basic structure.
The hock joint connects the shin bones (tibia and fibula) to the bones of the paw (talus and calcaneus bones). After a sudden traumatic incident (such as getting hit by a car or snagging a paw on a hole in the ground), your dog may tear any of four main ligaments on the inner and outer sides of the joint, or fracture the fibula or bottom of the tibia bone.
When your dog injures her hock joint, there are usually clear indications. Symptoms of hock instability include a sudden onset of lameness or swelling in the affected limbs.
Common Canine Hock Injuries
Is your dog limping on her hind leg? Have you noticed the hock joint swelling or moving abnormally? There are a number of dog ligament injuries or chronic conditions that can be causing your pup pain in their ankle or Achilles tendon.
- Hock dislocation: If your dog gets hit by a car or stepped on, she may suffer from a hock dislocation, which is a tear of ligaments or fracture of bones in the ankle.
- Sprained hock/Slight muscle pull (minor injuries): If your dog is running at full speed and their back paw gets stuck in a hole, they may sprain their hock. Sprains affect the ligaments and result in limping or lameness.
- Canine Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): This developmental condition arises from abnormal cartilage development or cartilage damage. A piece of cartilage or bone gets separated from the cartilage surface. This disease is commonly see in young, large breed dogs. OCD usually affects the shoulder, but can also affect the elbow, knee, or hock.
- Osteoarthritis of the hock joint: The most common form of canine arthritis in the hocks is osteoarthritis, which occurs when protective cartilage wears away and bones rub together. This degenerative joint disease is especially common in older dogs.
Dog Hock Brace & Other Treatments
If you suspect your dog has a hock injury, always consult first with your veterinarian who will do a physical examination, including bloodwork and stress X-rays (force is applied to the the hock) to see if there is a bone fracture.
Invasive surgery is one potential treatment that your vet might suggest. Hock surgery may require pins, wires, and screws for fracture, or screws for a torn ligament. When surgery is not the best option, conservative treatment options for dog sprains and strains to the hock may include medication to help with swelling, arnica for soft tissue injuries that can lead to bruising, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and orthopedic bracing.
How a Canine Hock Brace Works
More and more pet owners are finally finding relief for their pups using orthopedic dog braces. Dog hock protectors can help treat hock issues. The Hock Holder orthopedic brace for dogs can help prevent injuries and sprains and help your dog move more easily and without pain. The ankle wrap fits the natural angle of the hock to prevent it from hyper extending. If applied to the non-injured hock, the Hock Holder can prevent injury in that leg. If your dog suffers from hock instability, this neoprene leg wrap helps hold the joint in place so scar tissue can develop. Once the joint is supported medially and laterally, your dog can move easily without straining the joint. While surgery for a hock joint injury is fairly rare, dog ankle braces can also be used post-surgically.
As always, if your dog is having trouble walking, first consult your veterinarian before treating the issue. With the right treatment plan in effect, your dog can more easily and quickly get back to her favorite pastimes.