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How to Rehabilitate a Dog With Patellar Tendinitis

| Updated September 26, 2017

Tendinitis in dogs is usually caused by trauma when the dog is running or jumping and injures the tendon by falling or overextending the joint. Tendons attach muscles to bone, and when the tendon is ruptured or stretched, the muscle cannot function properly and the injury causes the dog considerable pain. Patellar tendinitis is more common in small and toy breeds, which are more prone to a luxating patella, or slipped kneecap. The symptom will be rear leg pain and limping. The injury is usually diagnosed by observing symptoms, a physical exam and sometimes an X-ray to rule out calcium deposits and joint abnormalities. Whether or not the dog needs surgery to repair the tendon or joint, he needs recuperation and rehabilitation before resuming his normal activity level.

Restrict exercise for as long as indicated by your vet. This could be anywhere from two or three weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the tendinitis and any other joint damage. If your dog is used to plenty of exercise, he will be frustrated by not being able to run and play. Letting him do so can lead to chronic tendinitis if the area is not allowed to heal, so be strict about keeping him quiet. Buying him extra long lasting chew toys and teaching him new tricks that don't include a lot of physical activity will keep him occupied and less bored.

Help your dog lose weight if he is even the smallest bit overweight. You should be able to feel all his ribs easily and see a waist. It is not difficult to get a dog to lose weight since you control his food intake. This can be achieved by feeding 25% less at each meal, substituting part of his meals with green beans or canned pumpkin, or switching to a lower calorie food. If treats are fed, reduce the amount of food given at mealtimes since many treats are quite high in fat. Any excess weight will make it harder for a dog to heal from joint and connective tissue injuries, and will make it more likely that he will re-injure himself later.

Use natural supplements to support joint health. Glucosamine, chrondritin, MSM and hyalauric acid are all available at pet stores, often in a single formula. These are given daily and can be safely used in conjunction with medications prescribed by your vet.

Supplement your dog's daily diet with omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil capsules. The ones sold for human consumption are fine for pets. Adjust the dose suggested for humans to the weight of your dog, though it is safe to give up to 1000mg per 10 pounds of body weight as a therapeutic dose. Fish oil is not only a natural anti-inflammatory, it is very good for a dog's skin and coat.

Ice your dog's joint by laying a bag of ice or frozen peas wrapped in a light towel around the knee. This will temporarily reduce swelling and give your dog some relief from pain.

Consider acupuncture as a complementary therapy for speeding up healing. Acupuncture is fairly inexpensive and most dogs enjoy the experience, so it is worth a try. Use the veterinary acupuncturist website link below to locate one worldwide.


  • Do all follow up exams with your vet as instructed and don't allow your dog full exercise until your vet tells you it is OK.


  • Always tell your vet if you are giving any supplements or herbal remedies. While most are perfectly safe in conjunction with prescribed medication, it is best to keep your vet informed as you work as a team to heal your dog.