The patellar tendon is the tissue that holds the patella, or kneecap, in place, and it attaches to the tibia. When this tendon becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as patellar tendonitis, also known as “jumper’s knee.” (diagram of anatomy of knee)
Anyone can get patellar tendonitis, including humans. It can occur in any breed of dog, and is often seen in sporting and agility dogs.
Dogs with patellar tendonitis can show signs including stiffness of gait, decreased extension of the stifle, and intermittent lameness. Agility dogs may begin missing obstacles or be hesitant to jump. Additionally, affected dogs will show signs of discomfort and pain of the stifle. There may also be swelling of the affected joint.
Your veterinarian can diagnose this condition based on a complete history and physical exam, using radiographs and/or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
Patellar tendonitis can be a result of trauma, but is often caused by overuse of the knee. Repetitive, high-impact activities such as jumping can irritate and cause inflammation of the tendon. This is why the condition is seen more commonly in agility and sporting dogs.
Patellar tendonitis can be managed medically with rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories prescribed by your veterinarian. Physical therapy can also be helpful. The use of therapeutic ultrasound or laser can help reduce inflammation and promote healing, while exercises such as swimming or walking in an underwater treadmill can help strengthen the surrounding muscles.
As with any orthopedic condition, weight management and proper conditioning, particularly of athletic dogs, cannot be overstated in preventing patellar tendonitis.
With proper rest, prompt medical treatment, and appropriate physical therapy, most dogs recover without incident, and agility dogs can return to competition.