Luxating Patella in Dogs: Painful but Treatable (2022)

Does your dog have a luxating patella? Not sure what that means or what you can do about it?

Luxating patella in dogs is a common orthopedic dilemma many pet owners have either faced or have heard of! So, in this article, we will cover all you need to know about luxating patella in dogs and the costs associated with it.

Table of Contents

What is a Luxating Patella?

Patellar luxation is a common musculoskeletal disease commonly seen in many dog breeds. Before we try and figure out what exactly is a luxating patella, we must first familiarize ourselves with the anatomy and biomechanics of the stifle (knee) joint.

To keep things simple dogs have a kneecap that’s highly moveable this—the patella. This kneecap fits comfortably in the groove of the femur bone (Patellofemoral groove) and when a dog flexes or extends it’s knee, then the kneecap slides up and down.

Patella luxation simply means that the kneecap is no longer able to slide across this groove, therefore, the kneecap has become dislocated.

(Video) Dog patella luxation. Luxating knee or patella in the dog: How to diagnose and treat with Dr. Dan

Medial Luxating Patella in a Nutshell

A luxating patella can be classified as either medial or lateral. Now, this just indicates the direction in which the kneecap may be sliding. So, if a dog’s patella is sliding on the inner aspect of the knee then this is considered a medial luxation patella.

Luxating Patella in Humans

A dislocated patella can also be found in humans, however, in the case of our species, this is often referred to as Patellar subluxation which occurs as a result of injury or patellar dislocation. What’s the difference between the two?

From a medical perspective, patella dislocation refers to the “complete” dislocation of the kneecap from the joint. Whereas, patella subluxation refers to a partial dislocation.

Luxating Patella in Cats

Cats can also be prone to patellar luxation. This may also be caused either by injury or is congenital.

Luxating Patella in Dogs

Patellar luxation is most prevalent in small dogs, but it has been increasing in large dogs as well. The most common form of patella luxation is medial luxating patella.

Possible Causes of Dog Luxating Patellas

A luxating patella may be commonly caused by poor nutrition, injury, or it may be present at birth (congenital).

Genetics

Medial patella luxation is strongly associated with skeletal deformities, this is therefore considered congenital, therefore it is not recommended that owners breed from these dogs. Skeletal deformities include an improver alignment of the quadriceps muscle, malformed trochlea ridges, tibial tuberosity may be misaligned, and hypoplasia of the medial femoral condyle.

Poor Nutrition

Dogs who have poor nutrition and are overweight, are at risk of developing joint problems associated with the kneecap—this is due to an increase in pressure on the joint capsule and knee joint.

Too Much Exercise or Stress on Joints During Puppyhood

The two main causes of a luxating patella may be either the dog is born with it (congenital) or the dog is prone to getting it in the future (genetic). Very rarely could intensive exercise during puppyhood cause joint problems. The reason it may be suggested is that certain dog breeds may grow faster than average, therefore it is possible that too much exercise may negatively impact bone growth,

(Video) Luxating Patella - How we get our dog's knee back in place (miniature pinscher mix puppy)

Medical Conditions

Cranial cruciate ligament rupture or pain has been commonly associated with patella luxation.

Luxating Patella Dog Symptoms

Before treatment options are considered, veterinarians will often conduct a physical exam in order to determine the severity of the luxating patella. The severity of patella luxation is often divided into four grades which include:

Grade 1: Dogs with grade 1 luxation do not experience severe pain. While their kneecap does slide out of place, it can actually easily manipulate (massaged) back into place without surgical intervention.

Grade 2: Dogs with grade 2 luxation often feel pain when their patella falls out of place, these dogs also may develop associated problems such as arthritis. Despite this, the patella can be massaged back into place—temporarly!

Grade 3:Dogs with grade 3 luxation will constantly remain in pain and can develop severe arthritis. The kneecap will slide outside the groove most of the time, but fortunately, it can be manipulated back into place.

Grade 4:The patella cannot be physically manipulated back into place, therefore the dog will have a “bow-legged” appearance and will remain constantly in pain.

Common symptomsassociated with patella luxation include:

  • A popping noise may be heard in the dog’s knee
  • The dog will avoid bearing weight on the affected leg
  • The dog will be in pain
  • Abnormal gait

Which Dogs Are Prone to develop Luxating Patellas?

Unfortunately, if you own a small or toy dog then you’re in for a real problem. It seems as though luxating patellas are most commonly seen in small breed dogs. This includes:

  • Pomeranian
  • Chihuahua
  • Pekingese
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Toy Poodle
  • Basset Hound
  • Boston terrier
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Shih Tzu
  • Carin Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Papillon
  • American pit bull terrier

Now, recent research has indicated that even large dogs can be quite prone to developing luxating patellas. Large breeds at risk of patella luxation include the:

(Video) Patella Luxation in the dog. Does a dog with a bad kneecap need surgery or just medicine

  • The Great Pyrenees
  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Newfoundland
  • Cane Corso
  • Great Dane

Luxating Patella? Yorkies Know All About It

A luxating patella as mentioned is quite prevalent in small dogs such as Yorkies! In one study, it was found that 26% of Yorkies were affected by Patella Luxation.

Treatment Options for a Luxating Patella in Dogs

There are many treatment options available for a luxating patella. Here, we will go through the most common treatment methods performed in veterinary medicine.

Quadriceps femoris realignment surgery: The goal here is to actually move part of the tibial tuberosity towards the tibia bone itself, here veterinarian surgeons aim to reposition the patella bone with the groove within the femur. This procedure of realignment is referred to as tibial tuberosity transposition.

Deepening the Trochlea groove: As the name suggests, here surgeons will simply deepen the groove at which the patella may be sliding against.

Femoral osteotomy surgery: During this surgery, the femur bone is cut above the knee joint, and restabilized with pins and screws.

Now, the actual process of surgery can be quite complicated.

Luxating Patella Treatment: Non-Surgical

Now, if your dog has grade 1 or grade 2 patella luxation, then your veterinarian may simply recommend non-surgical methods of treatment. The most common methods include a knee brace, supplements, and physical manipulation.

Perhaps All Your Dog Needs is a Luxating Patella Dog Brace

Canine knee bracesare a common method of treatment, that are often used to stabilize the stifle joint. Knee braces are an alternative to surgery and they can help with all sorts of problems, including cranial cruciate ligament rupture.

The Dog Knee Brace for Luxating Patella

Dog knee braces can be quite beneficial for dogs suffering from a luxating patella. Canine knee brace by neoprene is a knee brace available for purchase without a veterinary prescription. But, it is important to remember, that you need to consult your veterinarian in order to properly diagnose and grade your dog’s patella luxation.

(Video) Luxating Patella In Dogs

Look into Luxating Patella Dog Supplements

It’s plausible to suggest that proper minerals and nutrients are essential for bone health. This means that you should look into supplementing nutrients that will ensure your dog has proper collagen synthesis, a supply of antioxidants, and proper bone growth.

Give Your Dog a Luxating Patella Massage

Massaging your dog’s knee joint can also be a great way to move the patella back into correct position. This will not only improve the mobility of your dog, but it will also decrease any pain and stiffness your dog may have. Talk to your vet on how you can manipulate your dogs patella.

When Luxating Patella Treatment Requires Surgery: What You Should Know

Many severe cases of patella luxation will require surgery, so here we have listed all you need to know about the costs of surgery. Remember, that the surgery itself is not the only cost you should expect. Remember, that the post-op care can be quite expensive too, this may involve, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, vet visit check-ups, and medication.

Patellas Don’t Come Cheap! Luxating Patella Surgery Cost

The cost for treating a luxating patella will depend on many factors such as the region you live in, the individual veterinary prices, and the grade or type of luxating patella. In general, you can expect to be quoted anywhere starting from $1,980 for a unilateral medial patella luxation or $2,980 for a bilateral medial patella luxation.

Luxating Patella Surgery Cost 2015 vs Luxating Patella Surgery Cost 2016

The cost of a luxating patella surgery for the years 2016 to 2017, can be estimated between $2,300 to $2,700if the dog is less than 40 lbs. Now, the cost of a luxating patella surgery during the year 2015 to 2016 is estimated to be about the same as well.

Luxating Patella Dog Surgery Costs and Pet Medical Aid

Pet medical aid simply refers to the “pet insurance” plans that are available to help you cover the costs of a luxating patella surgery. Some, insurance companies quote that the average cost of the surgery can be anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000 depending on your dog’s size and severity.

Know the Risks! When Luxating Patella Surgery Costs More than Money

Orthopedic surgery can get quite expensive for pet owners! This is because orthopedic surgery is not only complicated, but any post-op care will require patience and owner compliance. Any surgery—be it the soft tissue or musculoskeletal, can be risky! Potential risks that can occur with orthopedic surgery include:

  • migration of surgical implants—that is, the pins used to stabilize the tibial tuberosity, can migrate to the wrong spot.
  • Anesthesia complications are a common risk
  • Surgical infection
  • An inability for the dog to completely recover

The Luxating Patella Surgery Success Rate

In 2016, a study looked at the overall outcomes of grade 4 medial patellar luxation surgery. They concluded that the generalized success rate for luxating patella surgery is 93%

Luxating Patella Surgery Recovery Time

With proper care and exercise, pets can begin properly using their recovering leg within 6 to 8 weeks of surgery.

(Video) Dr. Becker Discusses Patellar Luxation

Poor Pup! Medially Luxating Patellas are No Fun!

Medial Luxating Patellas are more commonly seen in veterinary practice as opposed to lateral patella luxation. The medial luxating patella is prevalent in 98% of small breeds, while lateral luxating patella may be slightly more common in large dogs. Regardless, veterinarians and researchers strongly believe that any medial luxating patella problems are strongly associated with skeletal deformities.

3 Tips to Help Speed Up Luxating Patella Dog Surgery Recovery

  1. Post surgery improves your dog’s diet by providing nutrient-rich food high in vitamins and minerals.
  2. Avoid intensive exercise and activity. Your dog needs time to rest and recover, keep walking to a minimum, don’t allow your dog to run or jump up onto places.
  3. Invest time in physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Exercising your dog in water will allow pressure to be taken off their joints.

Ways to Avoid Patellar Luxation

The only real way you can avoid patellar luxation is to simply not breed dogs who carry the genes for this disorder. Patella luxation is strongly genetically linked, therefore some dogs may simply be born with it. Now, if you’ve got a pooch who is classed as an “at-risk” dog, then the best thing you can do is to:

  • prevent your dog from getting overweight
  • feed your dog healthy food
  • Avoid intensive physical activity

Luxating Patella In Dogs Can Be Painful but treatable

Patella luxation is a common problem seen in a handful of dog breeds. However, the disease is treatable and does have a success rate of over 90%. Remember, if you think your dog has patella luxation then talk to your vet about the treatment options available to you.

FAQs

Can a dog recover from a luxating patella without surgery? ›

Most mild cases of patella luxation (grade 1&2), can be managed without surgery. Physiotherapy and controlled exercise can be used to build-up the leg muscles and stop the kneecap slipping. Surgery. Surgery is necessary for some dogs with patella luxation, especially if it is severe (grade 3&4).

Are Luxating Patellas painful for dogs? ›

Luxating patella isn't always painful for your dog. Grade I luxating patella usually doesn't hurt. And if you manage your dog's Grade I condition with diet and exercise, it may not develop into more painful stages. Higher grade luxating patellas can be painful as the kneecap slides out of the groove.

Can a knee brace help a dog with luxating patella? ›

Many pet owners turn to knee braces as a luxating patella surgery alternative when the condition is mild. Bracing the knee allows the dog's soft tissue to stabilize and gain the elasticity it needs.

Can luxating patella surgery fail? ›

Successful surgical treatment of patella luxation involves selecting the proper combination of surgical techniques to realign the structures participating in the extensor mechanism of the stifle. Complications occur in 18% to 29% of dogs undergoing patella luxation surgery.

Is it OK to walk a dog with luxating patella? ›

Exercise. Although dogs with a luxating patella should restrict strenuous exercise, daily walks are still crucial. Walking helps keep your dog's muscles strong, can help prevent arthritis, and is important to maintain a healthy weight.

How much should you walk a dog with luxating patella? ›

It's usually best to spend about 10 minutes doing gentle exercise before you let your dog run – a walk on the lead is fine. For some dogs, you may also want to do some low-level physiotherapy at home before you take them outside.

Does luxating patella get worse over time? ›

Patellar luxation is a degenerative condition, meaning it will get worse over time, especially if nothing is done to treat it.

What can I do to help my dog with luxating patella? ›

The methods for treating a luxating patella in dogs range from conservative medical management to surgery, depending on the grade of the disease. Most grade I and grade II instances are treated through pain and anti-inflammatory medications, weight management and exercise restriction.

How can I strengthen my luxating patella? ›

Gently and slowly extend and flex each joint (ankle, knee, and hip) 10 times, for 2-3 sessions daily. This should not be an unpleasant exercise and should only take 2 to 5 minutes. Short, slow, controlled short-leash walks are good. Start with 5-10 minute walks 2-3 times daily.

Will rest help a luxating patella? ›

Yes, patellar luxation can be painful for dogs that have higher grades of a luxating patella. However, if the patella is low grade and not causing much discomfort or pain to your dog, they may only require rest and restricted activity until it corrects itself.

How do you massage a luxating patella back in place? ›

How we get our dog's knee back in place (miniature pinscher mix puppy)

Does glucosamine help luxating patella? ›

To maintain bone and joint health, and to promote cartilage growth in the kneecaps by supporting the formulation of collagen, the use of glucosamine and chondroitin can benefit your dogs greatly in aiding with luxating patella, slowing the onset of osteoarthritis, and any discomfort that may occur.

Can luxating patella recur after surgery? ›

The recurrence of patellar luxation and the degree of lameness were evaluated up to at least 16 weeks after surgery. The overall recurrence rate was 10%. The outcome of surgery was considered good for grade II luxation with a 100% success rate.

How long does it take for a dog to recover from luxating patella surgery? ›

Total recovery time from patella luxation is normally 8 – 10 weeks. Following the surgery, your dog may be non-weight bearing on the leg for several days. Swelling and bruising are common and so anti-inflammatories and pain relief are dispensed.

How much does it cost to fix a luxating patella in dogs? ›

The surgery can range from $1,000 to $5,000. If you can't afford surgery, you can opt for rehabilitation. It's like physical therapy for dogs and costs between $40 to $100 per session. Rehabilitation can help strengthen your dog's muscles to support the knee joint and hold the kneecap in the proper position.

Can my dog still run with luxating patella? ›

Dogs with a luxtating patella may walk or run normally, then suddenly carry a hind limb up for a few steps. Dogs with more severe cases may require pain control medications, joint supplements, or surgery.

Can dogs jump with luxating patella? ›

Luxating patella is usually visible in puppies aged 4 months onwards, however if the condition is caused by an injury then onset can be at any age. It can affect one or both hind limbs. One of the first signs of the condition is that your dog may appear to be hopping or skipping on the affected hind leg when active.

Does dog insurance cover luxating patella? ›

Pro Tip: Pet insurance can cover the cost to treat luxating patellas that develop after policy enrollment. Some of the best pet insurance companies even include coverage for alternative treatments such as hydrotherapy that can be of great help after surgery, so long as it is not a pre-existing condition.

How do you prevent luxating patella from getting worse? ›

There is no effective 'fix' for patella luxation without surgery. Treatment becomes symptomatic and aimed at managing pain and inflammation. If left untreated, the condition can result in worsening of osteoarthritis and cartilage damage. Also a higher risk of cranial cruciate ligament disease.

Does a Grade 2 luxating patella need surgery? ›

Surgery should be performed if your dog has recurrent or persistent lameness or if other knee injuries occur secondary to the luxating patella. Grade I patellar luxations are not usually surgically repaired, but Grades II-IV are.

Is luxating patella surgery necessary? ›

Sometimes, the trochlear groove may wear down over time, causing the luxation to progress to a Grade III. Or a dog may become significantly painful even with a Grade II luxation. In those cases, it may be time to consider surgical correction. Some general practice vets may be able to perform luxating patella surgery.

How do dogs walk with luxating patella? ›

The most obvious symptom of luxating patella is sudden apparent lameness in a back leg, followed by the dog either holding its leg up completely off the ground, or walking with a distinctive on-and-off “hop-skip” step.

Can a dog live with a dislocated knee? ›

A luxating patella in dogs does not affect life expectancy, and mild cases do not affect your dog's quality of life at all. In moderate to severe cases, dogs may limp chronically due to pain and discomfort.

What is a Grade 2 luxating patella? ›

Grade 2: The patella luxates with flexion and extension of the joint, but returns to the trochlear groove spontaneously. Some lameness may be present. Whether or not surgery is required depends on several factors: how often lameness is a problem, and how long lameness lasts when it is a problem.

What happens if you don't do TPLO surgery? ›

Without surgery, the body tries to stabilize the wobbly knee with scar tissue. Unfortunately, this is hardly ever strong enough to keep the knee stable. tissue limits range of motion. The more scar tissue, the stiffer the joint — the dog or cat cannot bend or extend the knee all the way.

Is luxating patella a cruciate ligament? ›

Occasionally, a luxating patella can lead to a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. The literature states that at least 15% to 20% of dogs with patellar luxation will eventually rupture their cranial cruciate ligament.

Are dogs born with luxating patella? ›

Luxating patella in dogs is a congenital or developmental disorder, which means that it's inborn. However, traumatic injuries such as tearing and overstretching your dog's joints may also make your dog more prone to developing the condition.

Can luxating patella cause ACL tear? ›

A serious consequence of patellar luxation is that it predisposes the dog to a rupture of a ligament inside the knee called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL ruptures are very painful, at least initially, and usually the dog doesn't bear weight on the affected leg.

Can a dog walk after patella surgery? ›

Longer-term follow-up and care

All going well, controlled exercise on a leash may begin at this time. Leash walks should be minimal at first (10-15 minutes twice daily), and then gradually increased after 8 weeks post-operatively. Sit-to-stand exercises should also begin around 6 weeks post- operatively.

How do you keep the patella in place? ›

Management and Treatment
  1. Knee brace to immobilize the knee and keep the kneecap in place. ...
  2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), rest, elevation and ice packs to ease pain and swelling.
  3. Physical therapy to strengthen muscles that hold the kneecap in place and improve range of motion.
21 May 2021

How do you fix luxating patella at home? ›

How we get our dog's knee back in place (miniature pinscher mix puppy)

Is surgery necessary for luxating patella? ›

Sometimes a luxating patella can be treated with physical therapy and medication. However, surgery may be necessary if your dog's condition is severe and causes them significant pain.

Can puppies grow out of luxating patella? ›

Patellar luxation is often diagnosed at a young age. Unfortunately, because this condition is genetic, puppies do not grow out of a luxating patella. They may require treatment if the condition is causing pain or a loss of function in the affected limb.

How much does it cost to fix a luxating patella in dogs? ›

The surgery can range from $1,000 to $5,000. If you can't afford surgery, you can opt for rehabilitation. It's like physical therapy for dogs and costs between $40 to $100 per session. Rehabilitation can help strengthen your dog's muscles to support the knee joint and hold the kneecap in the proper position.

Does luxating patella get worse over time? ›

Patellar luxation is a degenerative condition, meaning it will get worse over time, especially if nothing is done to treat it.

How long does a luxating patella take to heal? ›

Recovery from treatment

Total recovery time from patella luxation is normally 8 – 10 weeks. Following the surgery, your dog may be non-weight bearing on the leg for several days.

How can I strengthen my luxating patella? ›

Gently and slowly extend and flex each joint (ankle, knee, and hip) 10 times, for 2-3 sessions daily. This should not be an unpleasant exercise and should only take 2 to 5 minutes. Short, slow, controlled short-leash walks are good. Start with 5-10 minute walks 2-3 times daily.

Does Pet Insurance Cover luxating patella surgery? ›

Pro Tip: Pet insurance can cover the cost to treat luxating patellas that develop after policy enrollment. Some of the best pet insurance companies even include coverage for alternative treatments such as hydrotherapy that can be of great help after surgery, so long as it is not a pre-existing condition.

Does glucosamine help luxating patella? ›

To maintain bone and joint health, and to promote cartilage growth in the kneecaps by supporting the formulation of collagen, the use of glucosamine and chondroitin can benefit your dogs greatly in aiding with luxating patella, slowing the onset of osteoarthritis, and any discomfort that may occur.

Is luxating patella surgery successful? ›

What are the success rate for the surgery? The rate of success for the surgery for dogs is 90%. Most animals will have an uncomplicated recovery and be fully functional. About 10% of cases will have recurrence of the luxation.

Are dogs born with luxating patella? ›

Luxating patella in dogs is a congenital or developmental disorder, which means that it's inborn. However, traumatic injuries such as tearing and overstretching your dog's joints may also make your dog more prone to developing the condition.

Does a Grade 2 luxating patella need surgery? ›

Surgery should be performed if your dog has recurrent or persistent lameness or if other knee injuries occur secondary to the luxating patella. Grade I patellar luxations are not usually surgically repaired, but Grades II-IV are.

Can a dog live with a dislocated knee? ›

A luxating patella in dogs does not affect life expectancy, and mild cases do not affect your dog's quality of life at all. In moderate to severe cases, dogs may limp chronically due to pain and discomfort.

Is luxating patella always genetic? ›

The overwhelming majority of patellar luxation are congenital and certainly hereditary, although a mode of inheritance has not been described (4,5). Occasionally, traumatic cases do occur when a blow is sustained to the retinacular structures, particularly on the lateral side of the stifle joint (4,5).

How do dogs walk with luxating patella? ›

The most obvious symptom of luxating patella is sudden apparent lameness in a back leg, followed by the dog either holding its leg up completely off the ground, or walking with a distinctive on-and-off “hop-skip” step.

How do you prevent luxating patella in dogs? ›

Preventing Luxating Patella In Dogs

One of the easiest ways to prevent a luxating patella in dogs is to maintain the ideal weight for your dog's breed. Feeding your dog a specially curated raw food diet can ensure they're getting all of the nutrients they need and ensuring their vitamin intake is maintained.

Videos

1. Exercises to Help Avoid Surgery for Luxating Patellas in Dogs
(The Dog Wellness Centre)
2. Exercise for Dogs with Patella Luxation (Medial & Lateral, Grade 1 & 2)
(Cockapoo Mom)
3. Patela dislocation in dogs.
(josias alves)
4. At-Home Therapy: Knee, Small Dog
(Veterinary Surgical Solutions)
5. Luxating Patellas in a Dog.
(Greg Martinez DVM)
6. Patella luxation repair in the dog and cat
(Tibor Lazar)

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