Dogs are active animals. Sometimes activity can cause a dog to tear a ligament or even the actual joint capsule. In either case, the tear can be quite painful for the dog. He needs aggressive veterinary treatment right away to ensure full recovery.
The hock is a joint in the dog's hind leg below his knee that extends to his ankle. Ligaments connect the joint and bones together.
When the hock joint and surrounding ligaments become injured, the dog experiences lameness in the affected leg and limps. Limping generally appears sudden and usually occurs during or after a period of high activity–running or jumping–that may have caused the tear. Swelling may also ensue.
An X-ray of the hock joint area is the best way to diagnose a tear or sprain along with a thorough examination by a veterinarian or canine orthopedic specialist.
To reduce swelling and pain, the dog is usually placed on an anti-inflammatory medication. WebMD suggests placing cold packs on the hock area for a period of 15 to 30 minutes three or four times a day as a swelling reliever, then switch to warm, moist compresses after the first 24 hours for another few days. A veterinarian may also prescribe glucosamine or fish oil–natural supplements–to promote healing and to prevent arthritis from occurring in the hock joint because of added stress and strain. Depending on the severity of the tear, the veterinarian may suggest surgery to repair it. The dog needs lots of rest and his mobility should be limited for several weeks to allow time for the ligament to heal. Rehabilitation may be needed to build strength in the surrounding ligaments and joints that will improve the dog's outlook of recovery.
For most dogs with torn ligaments, a full recovery is possible when treatment is administered right away. In certain cases, the dog may experience slight limping even after surgery and rehabilitation, but for the most part this is rare. The dog may need to remain on a natural or prescription medication for the rest of his life for degenerative arthritis caused by the temporary weakening of the joint area as a result of the ligament injury.