Dog Tips

Patellar Luxation in Dogs - Vet's Advice

As a veterinarian, one of the common orthopedic issues I encounter in dogs is patellar luxation. Patellar luxation refers to the abnormal movement or dislocation of the patella, which is commonly known as the kneecap. This condition can cause pain, discomfort, and impaired mobility in our furry companions. Understanding patellar luxation is crucial for pet owners, as early detection and appropriate treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for dogs with the condition.

In this article, I will walk you through what you need to know about patellar luxation in dogs including signs and symptoms, causes, and the available treatment options. Whether your pet has been diagnosed or you are only looking to gain an understanding of the condition, I hope this article will provide the information you are looking for.

How Worried Should You Be About Patellar Luxation in Dogs?

When it comes to patellar luxation in dogs, it is important to be aware of the condition and ensure your pet receives proper care, but there is no need to panic. Patellar luxation is a common orthopedic issue in dogs, with almost seven percent of puppies receiving the diagnosis. This condition is particularly common in smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Miniature poodles.

While patellar luxation can be a cause for concern, especially in severe cases, the good news is that many dogs with the condition lead happy and fulfilling lives with proper care. Regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing appropriate exercise can help manage the condition and minimize potential long-term effects. By staying informed and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help ensure the best possible outcome for your furry friend.

Symptoms of Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Clinical signs of patellar luxation can vary depending on the severity of the condition and whether both knees are affected. In mild cases, the patella may temporarily slip out of place but quickly return to its normal position. However, in more severe cases, the patella may remain dislocated for extended periods or even become permanently displaced. Common signs and symptoms of patellar luxation include:

Limping: Dogs with patellar luxation often limp or have an abnormal gait. You may notice your dog favoring one hind leg, hopping on three legs, or having a wobbly walk. With a mild luxating patella, limping can be very transient and seen as a few skipping steps followed by a return to normal gait.

Pain: Patellar luxation can be painful for dogs, especially if the kneecap dislocates frequently leading to degenerative joint disease. Know more here about how to relieve pain in dogs.

Reduced activity level: Dogs with patellar luxation may become less active or unwilling to exercise due to discomfort or pain.

Swelling: If the kneecap dislocates frequently, you may notice inflammation and swelling around the joint.

Difficulty jumping or climbing stairs: Dogs with patellar luxation may have difficulty jumping or climbing stairs, especially if the condition is severe.

Causes of Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Understanding the underlying causes of patellar luxation in dogs is essential for effective diagnosis and treatment. There are several common factors that contribute to the development of patellar luxation in our canine companions. Some of the most common contributing factors for patellar luxation are:

Congenital Abnormality: Patellar luxation can be an inherited condition that is present at birth. Small breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Yorkshire Terriers are more prone to this condition; and both knees may be affected.

Trauma: Trauma to the knee joint can dislocate the kneecap from its normal position, resulting in patellar luxation as well as other damage to the joint.

Obesity: Dogs who are overweight or obese can experience exaggerated pressure on already susceptible joints or changes in the normal dynamics of joint movement, leading to a higher risk of patellar luxation.

Treatment of Patellar Luxation in Dogs

If you suspect that your pet is experiencing patellar luxation, bring them to your veterinarian for an evaluation. Your vet will likely conduct a physical examination to determine if a diagnosis of patellar luxation is accurate as well as the severity. If it is determined that your pet is experiencing patellar luxation, there are multiple forms of treatment your vet may recommend based on the grading (1-4) of the condition.

Conservative Treatment: Grade 1 or mild cases of patellar luxation can be treated with conservative measures such as rest, ice therapy, and anti-inflammatory, and joint support medication. This approach is often effective in reducing pain and swelling but does not correct the underlying problem.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises such as range of motion exercises, stretching, and strengthening exercises can help to improve muscle tone around the knee joint and reduce the risk of dislocation.

Surgery: In severe cases of patellar luxation, surgery may be necessary. Depending on the patient’s conformation, surgery may focus on deepening the groove where the kneecap belongs, using an implant to elevate the ridge at the edge of the groove, or changing the position where the thigh muscle attaches to the tibia. Surgery may also be indicated in mild cases to prevent them from becoming moderate or severe as the boney ridge of the groove wears down from repeated luxating.

Weight Management: Obesity is a major risk factor for patellar luxation in dogs. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the stress on the knee joint and lower the risk of dislocation.

Luxating Patella Surgery Cost

Luxating patella surgery is a common procedure performed on dogs, especially small breeds, and cats that suffer from this condition. The surgery's cost varies, depending largely on the clinic and the surgeon's expertise. The estimated cost for this procedure ranged between $1,500 and $3,500 per knee in the United States. This typically includes the pre-surgical bloodwork, anesthesia, the surgery itself, and postoperative care including pain management.

The lower end of the scale, around $1,500, is generally found at more rural or less expensive regions, and for less complex cases. On the other hand, the higher end of the range, up to $3,500, tends to be associated with clinics in more urban, high-cost areas or specialized veterinary surgical centers. This price might also reflect the treatment of more severe cases, requiring more complex surgical techniques. After surgery, additional costs may be incurred for physical therapy or follow-up visits to ensure a successful recovery.

How Pet Insurance Can Help

Accident & illness dog Insurance can be a valuable resource for dog parents. It can help ease the financial burden that comes with caring for a pet and help ensure your pet can get the care they need to stay healthy. The cost of treatment for patellar luxation can be very high, and pet insurance can help cover the eligible costs. That is why we recommend you enroll your dog in a pet insurance plan sooner than later so that you have assistance with unexpected veterinary expenses that arise and are eligible for coverage.

Patellar luxation is a common orthopedic condition in dogs. Early detection, monitoring, and treatment can go a long way in minimizing your dog’s discomfort and keeping their quality of life high. By monitoring your dog’s symptoms, seeking veterinary care early, and following your vet’s recommended treatment plan, you can help manage the condition. With proper care, attention, and support, dogs with patellar luxation can live long, happy, lives.

By Dr. Bethany Hsia, Veterinarian and Co-founder of CodaPet

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