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Patellar Luxation in Dogs: What You Need to Know

The name might throw you off, but patellar luxation is also known by a simpler name: kneecap dislocation. While you might think that’s something that only affects humans, and then only usually people who run or exert themselves, it’s actually a fairly common condition in dogs, particularly in smaller breeds, and it’s more common in female dogs than males.

What Is Patellar Luxation?

Patellar luxation is the name for a condition where the kneecap dislocates from it’s position, and while this doesn’t usually cause pain or discomfort, it can make moving a little difficult until the kneecap moves back to where it belongs.

What Are the Symptoms of Patellar Luxation?

In many cases, particularly early on, you might not notice any symptoms if your dog has patellar luxation.

Over time, you may notice limping, your dog raising a leg for no apparent reason from time to time, or even a little lameness. This will usually last as long as the kneecap is out of position, but if it moves back into position, the symptoms may disappear seemingly on their own.

Eventually, if your dog also suffers from arthritis, they may develop more stiffness and pain.

Why Does Your Dog Have Patellar Luxation?

In some cases, patellar luxation is congenital, meaning your dog is born with a deformation that causes the condition. In others, trauma or injury to the leg may cause this to happen.

Diagnosing Patellar Luxation

When you ask your veterinarian about your dog’s knee, they will probably take a history, focusing on limping or other symptoms common to this condition. They will probably take x-rays to view the bones, and will physically examine the area. In some cases, fluid samples from the knee or knees affected may be taken.

Treating Patellar Luxation

In most cases, the only effective treatment of patellar luxation is surgery, but since many dogs don’t have pain or discomfort from this condition, your vet may advise that you take a wait and see approach.

When your veterinarian does decide surgery is wise, they might adjust the “fastening” of the kneecap to the knee, or alter the groove in the bone that they kneecap rests in. The good news is this type of surgery has better than 90% chance of being a great success.

After surgery, your dog will have to avoid jumping for a while, and there may be a chance that the condition may recur.

Of course, as with any condition that may be inherited, it’s a very bad idea to use any dog that has patellar luxation for breeding, and if you are buying a small breed dog from a breeder, make sure that you ask about any history of this condition in the puppy’s parents.

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