Why Your Dog’s Knee Clicks When Walking (8 Common Knee Problems)

Coco, my dog has always been my best friend for years. However, last evening, I heard a clicking sound from the knee when taking her for a walk. Should I be worried?

I’ve heard dog owners complain of the same issue. What does a dog knee clicking when walking mean?

Dog’s joints can click or pop when there is a joint injury, bones rubbing, ligaments moving and air in the joints. Most clicking sounds are nothing serious. However, some joint problems can be serious and require immediate vet services.

If the dog shows signs of lameness and pain, the consult a vet immediately. The clicking or popping sounds are common and happen in human joints too. The more important question to ask is: “Is it normal for a dog’s leg to make such clicking noises?”

Why Is Your Dog’s Knee Clicking When Walking?

Your dog’s knee might be clicking because bones in the joints are making contact with each other. However, the reasons would greatly vary. Let me explain this in detail.

Why Is Your Dog’s Knee Clicking When Walking

First, you need to understand the structure of your dog’s knee.

Dogs’ knees have synovial fluids between them to act as lubricants and prevent friction. The knees also feature a meniscus which acts as the knee pillow. The meniscus provides cushion and stability to the knees.

When the cranial cruciate ligament is torn, there are high chances of it injuring the meniscus joint. This is what we refer to as a meniscus tear. Lack of cushioning causes bones to rub against each other, causing a cracking sound. Well, this is just one example that explains the clicking noise in the dog’s knee when walking.

Let’s dive in and see major causes why a dog’s knee is clicking when walking.

Air In The Joints

Air in the joints is the main reason your dog’s knee is producing a clicking sound when walking. We’ve already seen that knee joints contain synovial fluids.

These fluids contain several gases like oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon  dioxide. The fluids play a crucial role acting as a buffer between the bones. If there is a leakage of these gases, you’ll hear a popping sound as the gas escapes.

It is harmless normal for gases to occasionally escape from the joint. If the clicking sound is as a result of escaping gases, then you should not be worried.


Another major reason for the dog’s knees clicking is due to knee bone surfaces gliding over each other. Friction at the knee joint can happen in several ways.

Ligaments Moving Friction

First, ligaments can rub against each other, or against the bones. Ligaments are muscles that join bones at the joint. They are extremely tough, as you can imagine, but very flexible. If a dog movely suddenly, the ligament can rub on the bones and cause a clicking sound.

Continuous ligament friction is dangerous and should be investigated by a veterinarian. If left unchecked, it can cause wear and tear over a period of time.

Bone On Bone Friction

Secondly, friction can occur due to bone on bone contact. This usually happens when the meniscus is worn out. Bone friction is quite dangerous and requires immediate vet intervention.

It is difficult to distinguish the exact cause of the sound. However, bone friction is painful and a lot more serious than ligament friction.

You need to be extremely keen and identify the legs with the problem. If friction between bones is not addressed immediately, there are high chances of more damage in the long run.


Arthritis is another problem that causes cracking of clicking sounds in the dog’s knee. However, the problem is common in old age. As dogs age, most tend to develop arthritis leading to a cracking noise.

Dog’s Arthritis

You can treat most arthritis cases in dogs by using any joint supplement. In extreme cases, a vet might prescribe painkillers and other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Hip Dysplasia

You can also hear the noise if your dog suffers from hip dysplasia. This is a case where the dog’ hips are popping. The dog’s joint consists of a ball and socket. The ball (femur) fits snugly inside the socket.

However, when the head and socket are degraded over time, the head tends to rub over the socket. The bone rubbing is painful and causes a clicking sound.

A visit to the vet is recommended right away. The vet will perform an x-ray on the hips and help treat the problem.

Subluxating Patella

This is a condition where the dog’s knee cap moves from its normal position. A change in position of the knee cap produces a clicking sound.

Changes in the knee cap causes friction when the dog moves, leading to the clicking sound. It is a serious condition which can result in pain and lameness.

Clicking noises in puppy joints

Most pet owners associate cracking noise to old age in dogs. What if you hear the clicking noise in puppies? These noises can occur even in puppies.

Most are benign and as a result of escaping gases from the synovial fluid in the joints. Puppy joints are loose and these make gases escape as they move.

However, you can also hear these noises as a result of  joint problems due to genetic issues. You need to start treatment right away to prevent any serious condition as the puppies grow.

Consider an X-ray and see if the joints are abnormal. Overall, most noises in the puppy’s joints are nothing serious. Most are as a result of changes in the soft tissues. If the puppies don’t show any signs of pain and lameness, it is nothing serious.

However, if puppies show signs of lameness and pain, consult a vet right away!

What Can You Do?

Essentially, this depends on the exact cause of the clicking sounds. Are there any signs of lameness, pain, limping, etc?  For example, if the dog suffers from a cranial cruciate ligament injury, it is possible the dog can heal on its own.

However, it is recommended that you consult a vet, situations can be different. This is especially important if dogs show signs of pain and lameness.

Does the clicking correspond to any limping? You can perform basic physical therapy on your dog. Let the dog rest and ice the painful area.

If the clicking is associated with limping, then consult a vet as the dog might need a minor surgery to remove the torn meniscus section.

When To See The Doctor?

You can see a doctor when the clicking sound is accompanied with signs of pain, limping and lameness. Overall, it is good to see a doctor when you hear any clicking or popping noises.

However, as noted earlier, some clicking sounds are normal and happen in most dogs. You just need to observe your dogs for signs of limping, lameness and pain.

If the clicking sounds don’t disappear after a while, then see a doctor. You can also see a doctor when you hear the clicking sounds in puppies. Orthopedic problems in puppies need to be resolved at a younger age.


Well, that’s it from me! I hope you now know the cause of the clicking sound in your dog’s knee. While it’s important to consult a doctor, your dog’s knee clicking should not worry you!

It’s normal for dogs to produce a clicking sound when they walk and stretch. Make sure you monitor the clicking sounds for signs of pain and limping to decide whether you can see a doctor.

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