Do Dogs Have Knees? (Number, Function and Health Risks)

It’s easy to get confused about canine anatomy, as it can be very complicated. Most know that dogs have front and hind legs, but what people aren’t sure about is whether they have knees. 

Dogs have knees, and they play a crucial part in allowing dogs to walk, run, and jump. They have two knees, one on each of their two back legs. Knee-related health risks in dogs include: 

  • Luxating patella
  • Ligament Injuries
  • Knee arthritis.

There’s a lot to know about dog knees, how they function, and knee health risks to be on the lookout for. If you’re interested in learning more, then keep on reading! 

Dogs Do Have Knees?

Dogs have knees that help them to maneuver and jump. The anatomy of a dog’s leg can easily get extremely complex. 

To put it plainly, the dog’s knee (also called the stifle joint) is made up of 3 bones: 

  • Patella
  • Femur
  • Tibia

All 3 of these bones connect to make up a dog’s knee. This may be difficult to visualize- this front view of the knee joint can put things into perspective.

do dogs have knees in their front legs

How Many Knees Does a Dog Have?

People who are unfamiliar with dog anatomy may not know how many knees a dog has. As briefly stated, dogs have two knees – both located in their hind or back legs.

Do Dogs Have Knees in Their Front Legs?

Some mistakenly believe that dogs have four knees: two on the front legs and two on the back legs. This is not the case. On the dog’s front legs, there are two elbows, and on the back two legs, there are two knees. 

Want to know more about a dogs’ elbows? Read this article.The part of the dog’s front legs that people mistake for knees are actually wrist joints. I’ve circled the wrist joints below to clear the confusion. 

do dogs have wrists
Wrist joints can be found on a dogs’ front legs

How Dog Knees Function?

When you get into how parts of a dog’s anatomy function, this is where things get a bit complicated. 

While bones are important parts of the knee, the ligaments, muscles, and cartilage also do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to knee function. 

The main ligament in a dog’s knee is the patellar ligament. This ligament holds all of the knee bones together and keeps them from going out of alignment

Cartilage covers the ends of the bones and acts as a cushion to allow for movement without grinding or pain. The muscles surrounding the knee provide the power necessary to move the joints and ligaments.

Common Knee Problems In Dogs

Since your dog’s knee is made up of many moving parts, there are many things that can go wrong. Here are the common knee problems in dogs:  

  • Patella Luxation
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture
  • Knee Arthritis.

In the following sections, we will go over each of these knee conditions. 

Patella Luxation

You may never have heard of Patella Luxation, but many dogs suffer from this disease. This condition is characterized by dislocation of the patella bone, one of the prominent bones in the knee. 

Medical professionals have classified this condition into four different stages (stages 1 to 4). 

  • Stage 1 is the mildest form, where the patella is only dislocated to a small degree.
  • In stages 2 and 3, the severity of the dislocation increases.
  • In stage 4, the dislocation is so bad that it cannot be easily repaired

Patella Luxation is often apparent by the time your dog reaches several months of age. Watchful owners may realize that their dog won’t allow one of their back paws to touch the ground, or there may be some degree of awkwardness in your dog’s running stance.

How many knees do dogs have

Which breeds are affected?

The dog breeds that are most likely to develop patellar luxation are: 

  • Boykin Spaniels
  • Pomeranians
  • Chow Chows
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Bedlington Terriers.

As you can see, this condition is most common in smaller dogs. However, some large dogs may also develop the condition. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of dogs that develop this condition.

As you can see, this condition is most common in smaller dogs. 

However, some large dogs may also develop the condition. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of dogs that develop this condition. 

The cause is genetic and non-preventable

Patella Luxation is a genetic condition. As such, if one of your dogs’ parents had the condition, the odds of your dog developing it is heightened.

There are no concrete prevention steps you can take to avoid this ailment, but some veterinarian experts recommend that you do things to prevent stress on your dogs’ knees. You can do this by installing doggy steps or a ramp in your home or carrying your dog up steps that are too high or when they have to jump by themselves e.g. into your car, onto a couch, or onto your bed.

We’ve rounded up our best recommendations when it comes to dogs stairs and ramps.

Which to choose? Stairs take up less space in your home and are easier to move around. However, ramps are softer on the joints, especially the knees. Ramps are more suitable for dogs getting in and out of cars, especially SUVs.

StepBest overall for dogs up to 150 pounds (foldable)PetSafeCozyUp Folding Pet StepsCheck Amazon
StepBest runner up for dogs up to 150 pounds (not foldable)Pet GearEasy Step IICheck Amazon
StepBest furniture-looking stepsCrown Pet ProductsCarpeted pet steps with storageCheck Amazon
StepsBest foldable platform steps (for car back seats, beds and couches)Pet Loader16 inch plastic platformCheck Amazon
RampBest ramp for car use PetSTEPOriginal folding pet rampCheck Amazon
RampBest ramp for home use (with carpet)PetSafeCozyUp bed rampCheck Amazon

Treatment for Patella Luxation

The main treatment for the condition is surgery. This is especially true for severe cases of patellar dislocation.

However, if your dog is only mildly affected, making accommodations to make your dog comfortable may be all that you can do. 

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from patella luxation, you should take your dog to see the veterinarian immediately. The sooner your dog sees a professional, the soon they can receive treatment and have their quality of life restored.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Another knee problem that regularly manifests in dogs is cranial cruciate ligament rupture

The condition is characterized by the rupturing of the ligament that stabilizes the knee

When you see a dog that cannot properly use its back legs, there’s a good chance that this condition is at play. 

Which breeds are affected?

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is a very common knee problem in dogs of all breeds, but the condition occurs most often in the following breeds: 

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Pit Bulls
  • Labrador Retrievers.

This is not an exhaustive list. 

Cause of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Your dog could rupture his cranial cruciate ligament in one of two ways: suddenly or over time. 

A sudden rupture could be caused by a physical injury, like a fall or twisting the ligament while running. 

Sometimes this ligament tears over time, and because the tear happens over time, it is hard to pinpoint which activities contributed to the rupture. 

Signs that your dog could be affected

There are several signs that could indicate that your dog may be suffering from this ailment. Read the following list for signs: 

  • Your dog may cry out in pain. 
  • Your dog may stop using the affected knee immediately. 
  • If the injury is not too severe, you may notice that your dog avoids using the affected knee at certain times. 

If your dog exhibits any of the above signs, whether it’s after a fall or not, then it’s imperative that you contact a veterinarian for a knee examination

They may be able to tell right away whether your dog has ruptured his CCL. 

An X-ray may be necessary to get a clear picture of your dog’s knee condition. 

Treatment for CCL Rupture

CCL rupture should not be left to resolve on its own because many times, the ligament won’t be able to move on its own. 

However, your veterinarian may be able to treat your dog without surgery. 

Non-surgical treatment may include: 

  • Rest
  • Controlled exercise
  • Medication to control inflammation.

Still, there may be some cases where surgery is needed to repair the ligament. 

If this is the case, a veterinary surgeon will manually restore the knee joint’s stability. Healing after the surgery can be extremely difficult for your dog, and restorative surgery is expensive, so non-surgical options are generally preferred over surgery.

Knee Arthritis in dogs

Now that you know about the most debilitating knee conditions in dogs, let’s talk a bit about arthritis

Arthritis is characterized by stiffness in a dog’s knee joint

The joint becomes inflamed when the cartilage between the knee bones wears away. The older your dog gets, the higher your dog’s risk of developing this condition, and it generally gets worse over time. 

Damage to the ligaments caused by the above conditions is a prominent cause of arthritis in dogs. The most obvious signs of arthritis in dogs are pain, irritability, and reduction in movement. If you suspect that your dog has arthritis, don’t waste time- take your dog to the vet immediately so treatment can be started. 

Related Questions

Do dogs have knees or elbows?

Dogs have both knees and elbows.

Do dogs have 4 knees or 4 elbows?

Dogs have 2 knees and 2 elbows. The 2 knees are located on their back legs. The 2 elbows are located on their front legs.

Do dogs have knees and ankles?

Dogs have knees and the equivalent of an ankle called a hock. Hocks can be found on their back legs, connecting the paw bones to the shin bones.

Do sausage dogs have knees?

Yes sausage dogs have knees just like other dogs.

Final Thoughts

Now you know helpful information about dogs’ knees and common conditions that affect them. We hope that this article is helpful to you in your pursuit of information about dogs’ knees. 


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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