Ask the Vet

Herding Dogs' Joints Need Extra Care

A good working dog will put as many hours as you do. Make sure if something looks off about her gait, a vet checks it out. (Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)


Our border collie was working cows, and I heard her yelp. She came back carrying her right rear leg. It does not seem to be broken, and I don't see any cuts or scrapes. What could have happened?


She could have gotten kicked or stepped on and bruised, but there could also be more serious issues. She really needs to be checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible. She could have pulled a toenail, and that can be very painful but a pretty simple fix.

Without examining her, I can only guess at what could be going on. One of the most common injuries we see in these athletic dogs is a torn cruciate ligament. Just like people, dogs have two cruciate ligaments in the knee that keep the stifle (knee joint) stable and in alignment. And, just like in people, cruciate ligaments can rupture from trauma or wear out with age, and break like a frayed rope. Either way, it creates an unstable joint which will lead to arthritis without proper treatment.

There are several surgical options that offer very good results and will return your dog to her normal activity in most cases, but surgery cannot be delayed. Get her to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Hopefully it is an easy fix.