Dog Training

Patellar luxation in dogs (from causes to surgery)

Here you will learn everything about patellar luxation in dogs. The causes, symptoms and what you can do now to prevent it. Also, for this article we have chosen Advice from veterinarian Emin Jasarevic obtained

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If your dog suddenly hops three-legged or shows signs of lameness, he may have dislocated his kneecap. This condition is called patella (kneecap) dislocation and is often painful.

Task of the patella in the dog

The legs of the dog consist of the tibia and the femur and a very thin fibula. The large thigh muscle is connected to the lower leg by a tendon. And in this chord is the kneecap, which lies in a sliding groove on the knee joint. 

To prevent this tendon from wearing out too quickly when stretching and bending at the bone, it is reinforced by the patella. It is the source of 13 ligaments that prevent the bones from shifting. The movement is largely buffered by the menisci.

With an injury such as patellar luxation, the guidance of the tendon and patella of the large knee extensor is no longer given.

clinical picture of patella luxation

If your protégé suffers a patella luxation, the patella slips out of the guide groove. As a result, it cannot fulfill its function. The joint capsule can tear due to this displacement. 

Affected quadrupeds subsequently have problems stretching and bending the joint. Depending on the cause and severity, the clinical picture may not be visible at all, may appear only occasionally, or may persist permanently. 

According to the symptoms, the course of disease of patellar luxation in dogs is divided into four degrees:

  • A patellar luxation in the first degree is often not recognized by the dog owner. The patella spontaneously moves out of position and just as spontaneously jumps back again. Congestion or lameness are not or hardly to be observed here.
  • In case of patellar luxation Grade Two the dislocation happens more often. Affected dogs unload the affected leg because the transmission of force during movement is not possible. Even with grade two, the patella usually spontaneously springs back into the groove. If you see such running or sparing behavior more often, you should go to the vet right away. Otherwise, the injury could develop into one of the more severe forms.
  • Grade Three visibly causes pain because the patella is increasingly dislocated externally or internally. Here, repositioning by the veterinarian is usually necessary. At the latest now only therapy options can stop the progression.
  • To avoid patellar luxation Grade Four the only thing that can help is an operation. Because now the often years of dislocation has already led to arthrosis, i.e. considerable wear and tear on the joint.
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Commonly affected dogs

Patellar luxation can occur at any age. Particularly common is the conspicuous patella dislocation in these types of dogs:

1. puppies and young dogs

During growth in puppies, growth shifts and thus a malposition of the patella can occur. The risk of injury decreases at the latest after reaching the first year of life. Mainly young pelt-noses are affected, which have inherited this disease from their parents.

2. small and very small breeds

In dog breeding there is currently a trend to breed the furbearers smaller and smaller. But especially the small and smallest four-legged friends often have lifelong problems with the patella. 

Regarding the age, the dislocation can appear and disappear at any time. Nevertheless, a visit to the veterinarian is inevitable as soon as you notice the first misalignments and gentle postures in the gait of your favorite.

3. medium and large dog breeds

Medium-sized dogs are less frequently affected by patellar luxation. However, predisposition and nutritional deficiencies can also lead to displacement here during the growth phase. 

Large dog breeds also develop the problem early, with very agile pups being more affected than leisurely characters. In medium and large dog breeds, early diagnosis protects against permanent limitations in mobility.

4. dog seniors

A certain amount of wear and tear of the patella cannot be avoided in the course of a dog's life. From the age of about seven years, the permanent posture of the patella can be increasingly observed. However, the disease has then already existed for a longer period of time. 

You may simply not have noticed the occasional sparing or twisting until now. At the latest from senior age, the right diet can reduce discomfort. 


Causes of injury

Several causes can be considered for patellar luxation in dogs. The Inheritance is considered one of the most common reasons. However, it can be detected only in pedigree dogs with known pedigree and known similar complaints of the dog parents. 

During the first year of life can Nutritional deficiencies and associated Growth disorders be causal. As with humans, also for our furry noses is Overweight a factor for the development of patellar luxation. 

With Increasing age some wear and tear cannot be ruled out. But again, some dog breeds and sizes are more affected by discomfort than others. 

The symptoms

At times, your faithful companion puts weight on all legs until he suddenly relieves one hind leg and briefly hops on three legs. After that, everything seems normal again.

In fact, patellar luxation causes manifestations of lameness beyond a certain degree. If the spontaneous relief of a leg appears more often, action is required. Because from this moment damage to the tendons and the knee joint can occur.  

A patellar luxation leads to Grade Two also to more severe pain. Your darling may now no longer like to walk or walk far. 

In bad cases, the pain leads to Loss of appetite

Even if patellar luxation is merely suspected, the veterinarian must be consulted. Only he can make a reliable diagnosis and find therapy options against the symptoms. 

Injury diagnosis

To rule out other injuries or diseases, an x-ray is a good diagnostic option.

Depending on whether your pelt bunny is front or back sparing, both joints (front or back) will be x-rayed and compared on the x-ray. 

If the symptoms occur only briefly and infrequently, palpation of the patella can also provide information about the presence of a dislocation. 

Depending on the veterinarian, a short walk through the office is often all that is needed to reliably identify bouncing and sparing. But this can also be caused by a cruciate ligament tear and is therefore not considered an exclusionary diagnosis for patellar luxation. 

If you want to breed with your four-legged friend, you are even obliged to the diagnosis. Only dogs without patellar luxation are allowed to breed.

Prevent a patellar luxation

Breeding associations try to contain the phenomenon of patellar luxation by strict admission criteria. You should therefore buy a dog from a known breeder, preferably with the diagnostic result of a veterinarian. 

Asking parents about known problems with the patella also helps to minimize the risk of later complaints. Your protégé may have a predisposition to patella luxation. inherited

Nevertheless, a pain- and symptom-free dog life is possible. For good reason pet food manufacturers offer for puppies, adult dogs and dog seniors each suitable food an. Among other things, this provides all joints with the necessary nutrients in line with their age. 

In addition, the Feeding in moderation, so after the recommendation of the veterinarian, a good measure to prevent. A normal-weight quadruped is less prone to signs of patellar luxation, or only at an older age. 

Of course, the principle also applies to our protégés: strong muscles relieve the skeleton. Therefore are Walks, play and targeted running training (age-appropriate) advantageous. The stronger the muscles on the upper and lower leg, the less likely the patella will dislocate at all. 

Non-surgical therapy options

If the symptoms of patellar luxation occur only occasionally, they usually disappear for a long time with the daily administration of joint-friendly supplements. 

With such feed supplements, all joints get more lubrication and nutrients for stronger cartilage. Good results with regular administration achieve especially these common supplements:

  • Willow bark and devil's claw support the cell supply up to the joints. This is regulated by the body itself through contained metabolites.
  • Green-lipped Mussel contains glycosaminoglycans and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are beneficial for a balanced joint metabolism. Glycosamine is also available as a separate dietary supplement. It keeps the joint cartilage elastic.
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a source of sulfur for joints, ligaments and tendons. It is contained in various joint tablets suitable for dogs.
  • Trace elements and vitamins provide not only the joints and the patella, but also the muscles, nerves and tendons of your favorite with everything necessary for healthy growth.

If the patellar luxation is already so advanced that your protégé is showing pain, you can Painkiller and nutrients composed by the veterinarian with special food improve his quality of life again. This combination is often used in senior dogs for a pleasant retirement as a permanent therapy. 

If your pelt-nose has a patella luxation as a result of Overweight develops, it urgently needs to lose weight. Your vet can do a Nutrition and training plan set up. Because simply feed less would rather intensify the symptoms. 

Help with weight loss physiotherapy hours on the underwater treadmill good. Also other physiotherapeutic therapies often help well, at least against deterioration.

Surgery options

Only surgery can help against grade three and grade four patellar luxation. There are different complex procedures for stabilization. 

However, these are associated with costs and a complete cure is not possible. Nevertheless, in the case of severe continuous pain, they are the only chance to at least combat the symptoms. 

Before you decide to have surgery, consider whether it's inevitable for symptom improvement:

In these cases, first try therapy without surgery

  • In young dogs up to about one or one and a half years, surgery would not lead to the desired success. This is because self-alignment is still quite possible due to growth. Nutritional supplements and joint tablets are the better support here.

  • Until the diagnosis clearly shows patellar luxation, multiple opinions should be sought rather than planning surgery.

  • Even if patellar luxation occurs more frequently, it can be painless. In such cases, the non-surgical supports help well to alleviate the course.

  • As long as a patellar luxation does not cause serious limitations, it is better to refrain from surgery.

In these cases, surgery is the only alternative

  • In the case of clearly recognizable, persistent pain, only surgery can help.
  • If no relief occurs after a while of non-surgical therapy, surgery is the last option.
  • Is an affected dog too heavy for its knee joints and does weight loss with physical therapy take too long to provide relief? In this case, the orthopedist prefers surgery.

Cost of knee joint surgery

Surgery for patellar luxation costs on average and depending on the method per leg at least 800 euros without VAT. 

Already during the diagnosis phase further costs have to be included. After the operation, your protégé will continue to be treated until the surgical wound heals. 

This also incurs its own costs for examinations, wound care and consumables. 

To ensure that costs do not become a problem, a Dog health insurance or a special OP insurance meaningful. 

However, there are insurers who only cover part of the costs for certain dog breeds or even exclude these breeds from benefits altogether in the fine print. 

Therefore, early comparison should be made and the most favorable offer should be taken.

Operation procedure

During surgery, the following corrections are usually performed:

  1. The gliding groove in which the patella is located is very shallow in grade three and grade four patients and therefore requires surgical deepening.
  2. The tendon of the large thigh muscle, where the kneecap is located, is repositioned on the lower leg so that dislocation of the kneecap is no longer (so easily) possible.
  3. Soft tissue structures, such as the joint capsule, are somewhat tightened to improve the stability of the knee joint and correct the sequelae of constant patellar dislocation. 

Chances of recovery

The prognosis for future freedom from pain is very good. The prerequisite is that the healing process proceeds well under the control of the veterinarian. After about four to six weeks, the follow-up control takes place. 

The chances of recovery are better the more additional care the operated dog receives. 

To painkillers can Joint tablets for good cartilage protection be given. 

As far as all operation steps are done, a targeted strengthening Swim training the load-bearing capacity of the leg again. 

The veterinarian should perform regular follow-up visits to prevent or quickly detect and treat complications.

Recommendation from the vet

Patellar luxation in dogs is a dislocation of the knee joint that is often inherited or occurs for other reasons. Breed susceptibility, overweight and other causes favor a course with increasingly severe signs of wear. 

Fortunately surgery is not necessary in all cases. 

But if your dog is in a lot of pain, you should get multiple diagnoses and it's best to get dog health insurance or dog surgery insurance early to cover the costs.

Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion and it is my personal concern to create medically accurate articles and videos to inform pet owners as much as possible.

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