Luxating Patella in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Luxating Patella in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Luxating patella, a condition where a dog’s kneecap moves out of its normal position, is quite common among our furry friends. While smaller breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, and Pomeranians are more prone to luxated patellas, this orthopedic issue can affect dogs of all breeds.

In some cases, physical therapy and medication may be enough to treat a luxating patella. However, if the condition is severe and causing your dog significant pain, surgery may be necessary.

Understanding How Luxating Patella Occurs

A luxating patella occurs when the kneecap shifts out of alignment from its groove on the femur, the thighbone. This can happen in one or both of the hind legs. In smaller breed dogs, the movement typically occurs towards the inside of the limb. However, it can happen laterally in larger breeds, although this is less common.

When the patella luxates, your dog may experience intermittent hind limb skipping, lameness, or the limb locking up at an odd angle. But once everything realigns, they go back to their normal activities as if nothing happened.

This condition can stem from a traumatic injury, but more often, it is associated with abnormalities in limb and joint structure. For example, the groove on the femur where the kneecap sits may be too shallow, or the attachment point of the kneecap to the shinbone (tibia) may be displaced. These changes in limb and joint structure lead to altered forces on the knee and, subsequently, patella luxation.

Further reading:  Spoil Your Pooch with Homemade Aniseed Dog Treats!

Diagnosing and Grading Luxating Patella in Dogs

A veterinarian will diagnose luxating patella through a physical examination and grade its severity on a scale of I to IV. The grade takes into account any signs of discomfort observed in your pet.

  • Grade I: The kneecap momentarily dislocates but returns to its normal position when pressure is released. Grade I often goes unnoticed and doesn’t typically cause clinical symptoms.
  • Grade II: The kneecap easily shifts out of position but can be manually adjusted back. Lameness is usually intermittent, and frequent luxation may cause cartilage damage and pain.
  • Grade III: The kneecap is frequently dislocated but can be manually repositioned. However, it spontaneously luxates again once the pressure is released. Dogs at this grade may experience more pain and lameness due to limb structure changes or cartilage damage.
  • Grade IV: The kneecap is permanently dislodged and cannot be manually replaced. Severe limb structure changes are present, resulting in lameness, impaired mobility, and reduced limb function.

Some dogs with luxating patella may also have a concurrent rupture of their cranial cruciate ligament, which is equivalent to an ACL tear in humans.

Treatment Options for Luxating Patella

The approach to treating luxating patella in dogs varies depending on the grade of the condition.

For grade I and grade II cases, treatment may involve pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, weight management, exercise restriction, and physical rehabilitation therapy. These measures help alleviate symptoms and strengthen the muscles.

Surgery is usually recommended for dogs with grade III and grade IV patellar luxation, as they experience significant pain and lameness. Various surgical techniques aim to realign the supporting structures of the knee joint and keep the kneecap in place. These techniques include deepening the groove on the femur, moving the joint that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone, and reinforcing the knee joint’s soft tissues.

Further reading:  A Ban on Selling Puppies and Kittens in British Pet Shops

If both hind limbs are affected, surgeries are often staged, beginning with the most severely affected knee.

Following surgery, your dog will need some time to heal. They may require a soft bandage or brace for a few days and have restricted exercise for several weeks. Short on-leash walks for bathroom breaks are recommended, and confinement to a crate or small room may be necessary to limit activity. Physical rehabilitation can aid in reducing muscle loss and promoting a quicker return to normal function.

Looking Ahead with Patellar Luxation

The good news is that many dogs with luxating patella can resume their normal active lives without surgery. Rest, relaxation, and physical therapy are often enough to help them recover. However, if surgery is required, most dogs bounce back quickly. Within a few months of the procedure, they will likely be back to their playful selves.

Remember, if you suspect your dog may have a luxating patella, consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. You want your furry friend to experience the joy of pain-free movement and a happy, active life!

For more information on your dog’s health and well-being, visit Karen’s Kollars.