Luxating Patella in the Dog: All About the Knee Injury

Is your dog suddenly lame? Then he could be suffering from a luxated patella. Here, you can find out exactly what it is, the symptoms, and what treatment makes sense.

Has your dog suddenly lost the desire to run? Does it even appear to be lame? Then beware! There is a risk that your four-legged friend will suffer from a luxated patella. Veterinarians understand this to mean a knee joint injury in which the animal’s kneecap is dislocated.

Smaller dog breeds are particularly affected. This includes:

• Yorkshire Terriers
• Chihuahua
• Pekingese
• French bulldogs

But these changes can also occur in some medium-sized dogs, including Chow-Chow or Shar-Pei.

Typical signs of a patellar dislocation
In technical jargon, a dog’s kneecap – also known as the patella – consists of a disc-shaped, flattened bone located in front of the knee joint. If the kneecap is dislocated, it no longer stays in its usual place but keeps jumping out of its groove in the femur.

The result: the animal puts the wrong weight on the affected leg and suffers from severe pain. Hobbing or occasionally skipping steps are typical symptoms of a luxated patella. Here are the signs of a patellar dislocation at a glance:

• lame
• Relieve the affected leg every few steps
• Don’t want to go for a walk
• Pains
• Bouncing, intermittent gait

Possible causes of a knee injury
There are many causes of patellar dislocation. Bone changes are often to blame. However, the knee injury can also be due to a weakness in the connective tissue. The most common triggers are the following:

Bone-related patellar dislocation

First and foremost, genetic factors are decisive in bone-related patellar dislocation. A slide groove that is too shallow or a kneecap that is too large is often the reason. Malposition of the hind legs is also one of the bone-related causes. The kneecap will jump inwards or outwards from the sliding channel if your dog has bowlegs or knock-knees due to the overstretched lateral ligaments.

Connective tissue and muscle weaknesses

If your four-legged friend’s connective tissue or muscles are too weak, they can no longer support the kneecap and the associated tendons and ligaments. The result: The patella jumps out of the sliding channel.

Accidental knee dislocation

Another possible cause of patellar dislocation can also be an accident in which the kneecap was thrown out of the joint. However, knee injury is extremely rare and can usually be set well.

The diagnosis of a patellar dislocation
If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from a luxated patella, consult a veterinarian. He examines and feels the affected leg very carefully while lying and standing. In addition, the veterinarian will ask you to let your fur nose walk back and forth in practice. An X-ray examination then provides information about the extent of the knee injury and possible treatment.

Degrees of severity of patellar dislocation and subsequent treatment

Before recommending any treatment, the vet will first assess the severity of the knee injury. There are four degrees in total, which are different and require different treatments.

• Grade 1

Does your four-legged friend suffer from a degree 1 patellar luxation? Then the kneecap can be manually pushed out of the sliding channel and easily springs back into the correct position. In this case, an operation is not necessary. However, treatment in the form of dietary supplements is recommended. This strengthens the joints and promotes cartilage growth.

• Grade 2

Occasional dislocations of the kneecap, which usually spring back into place on their own or when the hind legs are moved, are referred to as grade 2 patellar luxation. Treatment with dietary supplements is also sufficient here. However, surgery should be considered if this method does not have the desired effect.

• Grade 3

If the dislocation of the kneecap persists and the tibia is noticeably twisted, then your dog has a third-degree patellar dislocation. The affected leg can then no longer be stretched. Although the patella can be shifted back into the sliding groove by manual pressure, it jumps out again within a very short time. However, before the vet directly considers surgery, you should first feed your pet nutritional supplements and go to physical therapy. These treatments can often provide relief.

• Grade 4

If the vet diagnoses a grade 4 patellar dislocation, surgery is the only solution. Because at this stage, your dog’s kneecap is almost always outside of the joint and can no longer be set manually. The wear and tear on the bones and the slideway are too great.

Surgery vs alternative treatment
Since surgery costs for a knee injury are not cheap, it is always advisable to look for alternative treatment options. The cost factor is approximately between 500 and 1,000 euros per leg.

Then an operation makes sense:

• Dog suffers from constant pain
• Alternative treatments have been unsuccessful
• Dog suffers from obesity, knees are loaded with too much weight

Stay away from an operation:

• Dog is still young, is growing
• No impairments due to the patellar luxation
• No pain
• Dietary supplements help

Preventive measures against the luxating patella
To ensure that your dog does not develop a patellar luxation in the first place, you should make sure that the little one does not put too much strain on his joints when he is a puppy. Also, make sure you eat a balanced diet with sufficient but not excessive nutrient supply. It is also important that your four-legged friend does not become overweight.

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