Dog luxating patella surgery.

Dogs and humans share many of the same body parts, and the knee is no exception. Because canines are quadrupeds, though, their knee (or more properly, stifle) tends to experience a few more issues.

Luxating patella in dogs is a more common issue affecting the knee that our veterinarians at Animal Medical Hospital & Urgent Care diagnose regularly. Learn what it is, when to worry, and what you can do. 

A Trick Knee

The patella is the medical term for the kneecap, and while it is just a small bone, it can cause big trouble. 

Embedded in a ligament that runs over the front of the stifle joint, the patella creates the gliding motion that allows the knee to function smoothly and comfortably. It acts as a hinge, keeping the femur and the tibia in the same plane.

Typically the patella stays within a groove in the lower femur, keeping it at the very front of the knee joint. When it slips from this groove, it is considered to be luxating.

Luxating patella in dogs can occur for a variety of reasons. These can include:

  • Trauma or injury
  • Abnormally formed tibia or femur (including abnormal patellar groove)
  • Long patellar tendon
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Muscle changes in the quadriceps muscles
  • Genetics (small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, toy poodles, and Chihuahuas are commonly affected)

Luxating patellas are graded on a scale of one-to-four, with one being only able to be manually pushed out of place to four being permanently out of place.

Managing Luxating Patella in Dogs

Depending on the grade of the luxating patella in dogs, there are definitely ways to help manage this condition. 

Many times, pet owners may not even notice anything is wrong until their pet is suddenly lame in a rear limb. If the patella returns to its normal position, this may resolve on its own without intervention.

Dogs with lower grades of patellar luxation may not require any intensive treatment, but those affected by higher grades may experience pain or limits on mobility. Patellar luxation in dogs also can lead to the development of arthritis in the stifle joint.

If your dog is affected by patellar luxation, make an appointment so that we can discuss the best management and/or treatment plans for your individual pet. These recommendations may include:

Anything that we can do to help the joint function more normally and reduce inflammation is helpful. Surgery is often reserved for more extreme cases but can be life-changing for those patients who really need it.
A luxating patella in dogs is often something we find on a wellness exam that is not anything to be too worried about. Rest assured, though, that we are here to help should your pet have trouble with a bad knee. Keeping your pet healthy and pain-free is what we do best.