Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Patellar luxation is one of the most common orthopedic problems seen in dogs. Depending on your dog’s breed and size, it may be something you will see early in life or when they are older. But, don’t worry. With proper veterinary care, your pet can still enjoy an active and happy life!

What is patellar luxation?

Patellar luxation is a condition in which the patella, or kneecap, slips out of its normal position and into a sideways or medial (or sometimes lateral) direction. The knee cap can dislocate in many directions, but when it dislocates medially, it’s called medial patellar luxation.

Patellar luxation is not just one condition; it’s actually a spectrum of related problems that result from different degrees of abnormal development of the stifle joint (knee). Some dogs have slight displacements that are clinically insignificant while others have severe enough displacements that they require surgery to correct them.

The most common cause of this problem is trauma caused by injury during birth or some other stressful event that ruptures the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). The CCL keeps the femur bone in place on your dog’s tibia bone so as long as it’s intact he will be able to run comfortably without any problems even if he does develop some degree of PLL later on down the road (which about 40% do).

How do I know if my dog has patellar luxation?

If you suspect that your dog has patellar luxation, watch for any of the following signs:

  • Trouble getting up after laying down. If your dog is having trouble getting up, she may be suffering from an issue with her knees.
  • Limping or favoring one leg. If your dog favors one leg when walking or running, it could be a sign of patellar luxation.
  • Painful and swollen knees. A painful knee can lead to swelling in some cases, which will make it easy for you to see if this is the case for your canine companion.
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How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of patellar luxation is made by physical examination.

Your veterinarian will use a series of tests to evaluate your dog’s ability to move the legs and feet. Your dog’s tail may have to be gently lifted off the table so that your veterinarian can palpate (feel) the muscles and ligaments located just above or below the knee joint. To confirm a diagnosis, X-rays are taken from both sides of your dog’s rear leg joints to determine if there is any displacement of parts within those joints.

How is the disease treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of your dog’s patellar luxation. Mild cases can be treated with medication, while more severe cases may require surgery.

If you’re able to catch your dog before he develops arthritis, it’s recommended that you try non-invasive methods first. These include:

  • Medication – Your vet may prescribe Rimadyl for dogs or Cosequin DS for dogs.
  • Surgery – If medications don’t work or if your pet has already developed arthritis in his knees due to the condition, surgery may be necessary.
  • Exercise – Your veterinarian will likely recommend that your pet refrain from exercise until after surgery.
  • Weight loss – Patellar luxation is often associated with obesity and therefore weight loss is highly recommended as part of any treatment plan.
  • Prolonged rest – If your pet has a history of knee problems and can’t walk properly due to pain, it’s recommended that he stay off his feet as much as possible during recovery time (about 6 weeks).
  • Physical therapy – Your veterinarian may recommend physical therapy exercises to strengthen muscles around the affected area.
  • Prescribed diet – Most veterinarians will suggest feeding wet food because it contains more moisture than dry food does—which helps keep joints lubricated during recovery time in addition to providing extra protein content needed by pets recovering from surgery related injuries such
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Is there anything else I can do to help prevent or control the problem?

There are a few things you can do to help prevent or control the problem.

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight: Overweight dogs have more difficulty supporting their knees and hips, making them more prone to patellar luxation.
  • Avoid jumping or running up and down stairs: Jumping puts additional stress on the patella and can cause it to dislocate easily. If you suspect your dog is doing this, keep them off stairs until they are older and better able to support themselves with their legs.
  • Avoid jumping into or out of a car: It’s best not to let smaller breeds jump into cars as they may be tempted by small toys outside when getting in or out of the vehicle.