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What are Dog Hock Injuries?

What are Dog Hock Injuries?

Your dog might be limping on their back leg due to hock swelling, arthritis, an Achilles Tendon rupture, a pulled or torn hock ligament. Your dog might not be able to fully weight bear, limp or walk unsteadily. We recommend you fully support your dog’s hock with a brace, this will reduce pain and prevents reinjury.

Best Hock Braces & Supports

What is a Dog Hock Injury?

Dog hock injuries affect the hock joint of a dog, which is equivalent to the human ankle joint. The hock is the sharp angle towards the bottom of your dog’s rear legs and is composed of several smaller joints and bones. It connects the shin bones (tibia and fibula) to the bones that comprise the paw (calcaneus and talus).

Dog hock injuries, including medical conditions such as Achilles tendon rupture in dogs, can significantly impact your dog’s well-being and mobility.

A dog hock injury refers to damage or trauma to this joint structure, which can result in a range of issues that affect your dog’s mobility.

"Our dog ruptured a ligament near his hock bone"

"Our dog ruptured a ligament near his hock bone"

He had to have an operation to insert a metal plate and have a bone graft. Sadly, this failed due to an infection. This has really helped with our dog. It obviously won't cure this but allows him not to have one small walk in the morning to our nearby park.

Balto Hock Splint

What are the early signs of a dog hock injury?

Dog hock injuries have these symptoms.  Keep an eye out for:

  • Limping on the back leg
  • Swelling 
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to put weight on the affected back leg
  • Changes in gait - perhaps an unsteady walk
  • Difficulty in moving, walking and running
  • The toes may look curled up

Often your dog may become more careful with everyday activities, such as going down stairs. Another sign of hock injuries in dogs is you may see your dog shifting or changing position a lot when sitting down.  They may even extend their leg outwards while sitting. 

What should I do if I notice my dog has a dog hock injury?

If you think your dog’s got an injured hock, then you must consult with your vet. It’s important not to attempt a diagnosis yourself. Home remedies without professional guidance can make the problem worse however, once diagnosed, a brace can be really helpful in the recovery process.

What causes dog hock injuries?

Several factors can contribute to dog hock injuries. These include trauma (e.g. getting stepped on, or hit by a car), repetitive strain, and genetic predispositions. Arthritis, an Achilles tendon rupture, or a pulled or torn hock ligament can also cause dog hock issues. Certain breeds may be more susceptible to these injuries due to their anatomy or activities.

  • Sprains and Strains: dogs can sprain or strain the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the hock joint due to sudden twisting, jumping or landing awkwardly

  • Dislocations: hock joint dislocations occur when the bones of the joint are forced out of their normal position. This can be caused by trauma, such as a fall or a collision

  • Tendonitis: Tendonitis refers to the inflammation of the tendons around the hock joint. It can be caused by repetitive strain, overuse, or direct trauma

  • Osteoarthritis: over time, wear and tear on the hock joint can lead to osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition characterized by the breakdown of cartilage and the development of bony growths. Osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive condition. It can affect one, a couple, or all of the joints. There are treatments and strategies to help manage the pain and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. However, it can’t be cured.
  • Fractures: trauma or excessive force can lead to fractures in the bones of the hock joint. Fractures may be partial or complete, and they can range from hairline cracks to severe breaks

  • Torn hock ligament: a torn hock ligament happens because of a forceful, traumatic injury or an accident, where the joint goes into extreme flexion - such as your dog getting a leg getting caught in a hole while running. The ligament can tear or even fully rupture. Ligaments can also severely degenerate from an injury that’s initially mild.

  • Achilles tendon injury: the Achilles tendon keeps the heel of your dog’s paw elevated off the ground. Symptoms vary depending on how seriously the tendon is injured. Often it presents as rear leg lameness. There can be a ‘crab clawed’ appearance if it’s partially torn - your dog’s toes will look curled up. With a full Achilles tendon rupture in a dog (when all 5 tendons that comprise the Achilles tendon tear), the whole hock will drop. Your dog won’t be walking on ‘tip toes’ like normal. Your dog will look as if he’s walking ‘flat-footed’. The gastrocnemius (calf) muscle ultimately contracts. The area between the bone and tendon fills with fibrous tissue.

  • Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): this painful cartilage disorder can affect any dog, although large breeds some more prone to developing it. The cartilage separates from the joint or underlying bone. A blister forms on the surface of the cartilage. A crack forms around the edge of the blister, and fluid leaks into the cartilage from this crack. A flap forms in the cartilage. It’s very painful and causes inflammation which can lead to arthritis. Normally OCD happens in the shoulder joint but the hock can be affected. OCD is likely to appear before a dog’s reached 1 year of age.

Dislocated hock

Dislocated hock

"Our 8 year old dislocated her hock and damaged her ligaments 8 weeks ago. This is perfect, the support itself is soft and padded, nice wrap around Velcro which I cant see looking too dirty, nice touch too to have the splints removable so I can pop it in the machine"

Balto Hock Splint

What happens next

Your vet will do a thorough physical examination and then may recommend diagnostic tests, such as X Rays, Radiography or MRI scans, to assess the extent of the damage and formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

Can I do anything to prevent my dog injuring his hock?

Some injuries are simply unavoidable. Preventive care can reduce the risk of some dog hock injuries. Preventative measures include:

  • Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight - obesity can worsen hock injuries as there’s more pressure on the joint
  • Providing regular exercise for your dog
  • Avoiding excessive strain on your dog’s joints - don’t let them over-exercise when doing activities such as agility or flyball.
  • Supplements can help support and strengthen your dog’s joints

What breeds and ages commonly suffer from dog hock injuries?

Certain breeds, particularly those predisposed to joint issues or osteoarthritis, may be more prone to hock injuries. Additionally, older dogs may experience degenerative joint changes, increasing the likelihood of injury.

Younger, active dogs can also be vulnerable to torn, sprained hock ligaments and fractures.

Twisted hock

Twisted hock

"My energetic Dachshund twisted her hock whilst playing. I wanted a support to take some of the strain off the tendons. The hock protector is really easy to put on, there is definite improvement when she wears it and has not rubbed at all!"

Hock injury Diagnostic Tests

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. Veterinary diagnostic tests, including X Rays and advanced imaging techniques can help identify the specific nature and extent of the hock injury.

Treatment options: how can I help my dog?

The correct dog hock injury treatment depends on the severity and type of injury your dog has suffered. Conservative approaches may involve rest, limiting physical activity, and administering medications as prescribed. Follow your veterinarian’s guidance on rehabilitation exercises and supportive measures. Treatments can include:

  • Icing the area can be helpful for a new injury in the acute stage i.e. up to 48 hours after the injury occurs. Ice for between 15- 25 minutes at a time for best results. Use finely crushed ice surrounded by a wet towel for best results. Ice every 2 hours. Check the skin every 5 minutes for blanching. The skin should remain pink. After 48 hours, check with your vet about the best approach. Dogs who cannot regulate their body temperature, are cold-sensitive, have sensory deficits, or have cancer or an infection shouldn’t have ice used on them.

  • Conservative management: splints keep the joint stabilised and protect it from further damage. Wraps don’t give such firm support to the joint, but help protect the muscles, tendons and ligaments. They can also work as a reminder to the dog that there’s been an injury and prevent joint hyperextension. Please note that if an Achilles Tendon has ruptured, it won’t heal from wearing a full splint. Fully ruptured Achilles tendons require surgery. After surgery, a splint will likely be needed post-operatively until the surgery has healed.
  • Physiotherapy: will help improve the joint’s range of motion and rehabilitate muscles where needed

  • Hydrotherapy: can help dogs rehabilitate after surgery or to strengthen and condition muscles when surgery isn’t appropriate. Read about the magical affects of Hydrotherapy here.

  • Nutraceutical supplements that contain, for example, glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate, pentosan polysulphate, and green-lipped mussel extract.

  • Surgery: hock surgery for a fracture involves pins and wires. Torn ligaments are usually mended using screws. For OCD, there are specific surgical procedures that can be done in order to resurface the joint. Arthrodesis, or a partial or complete joint replacement might be considered. Hock joint surgery is fairly rare.

  • Stem Cell Therapy (SCT): this is used for Achilles tendon injuries. Stem cells are injected into the tendon. They form into new tendon cells to help heal the Achilles tendon.

  • Medications: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and other pain medication may be used to manage your dog’s pain.

  • Complementary therapy: when your dog suffers from a hock injury, some owners take the acupuncture and chiropractic routes.

How to help at home?

Limit activity and exercise, even indoors and this will aid healing. Consider a snuffle mat if your dog is very active and finds it difficult to cope with limited activity.  Apply a brace or support.

If there’s obvious swelling, you can ‘cold hose’ your dog’s hock joint. Run cold water from a tap or shower over the affected joint. This can help reduce swelling and pain.

Make sure your dog has a comfortable bed upon which to rest and consider natural pain relief if your dog is showing signs of being in pain.

Treatment of Hock Injuries

Depending on what has caused your dog’s hock injury, will influence what treatment is most appropriate. Often applying a brace will give your dog the required support needed, to help them heal. In severe cases such as fractures or severe tears surgery may be needed. Chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis can only be managed, not fully treated, due to it being incurable. Supplements can greatly assist in managing conditions that cause chronic hock instability, as well as an appropriate supportive brace.


Dog hock injuries, including Achilles tendon rupture in dogs, demand prompt attention and appropriate care. Particularly if there’s an Achilles tendon injury, which can be difficult to diagnose, a delay in treatment can significantly worsen the prognosis. By staying vigilant for early signs, understanding preventative measures, and seeking timely veterinary assistance, you can contribute to your dog’s overall well-being and ensure a smoother recovery from hock injuries. Always consult your vet for personalised advice tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

Dog Hock Injuries - Causes, Prevention and How to Help

Hock Injury Braces

Read Further about Hock Injuries

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