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Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with a dislocated kneecap, he or she may need surgery depending on the severity of the condition. Today, our Mamaroneck vets discuss causes, symptoms, and treatment, plus post-op recovery.

Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

If your dog’s kneecap is dislocated or slides from its normal position, a patellar luxation will occur. While dislocated kneecaps are usually the result of a congenital defect that prevents the patella from remaining seated in its groove, they can also be caused by trauma. The condition is most common in young toy or small breeds, including:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Maltese
  • Miniature Poodles
  • Papillons
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Some large breeds are also susceptible to patellar luxation, particularly if they suffer from hip dysplasia. Severity (grade) of the luxation will determine treatment options, but prognosis is typically good.

While many cases of patellar luxation are mild and will not need to be treated with surgery, in more persistent or severe cases a veterinary surgeon near Mamaroneck can prevent further complications by performing a procedure to avoid further complications.

Symptoms of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Depending on the severity of your dog’s patellar luxation, symptoms may vary and can include:

  • Discomfort
  • Lameness or limping
  • Reluctance to put weight on the limb

Dogs often experience these clinical symptoms intermittently and suddenly. You may notice them walking with an abnormal gait for a few steps, typically raising one limb from the ground, before returning to their regular walk.

Two Types of Patellar Luxation in Dogs

These are the two types of patellar luxation in dogs:

Medial Luxation

The more common form of patellar luxation happens when a dog’s joint slips toward the opposite leg, keeping the dog from extending its knee. However, the kneecap will often slide back into position by itself after a few steps.

Lateral Luxation

The kneecap slips away from the body, to the outside of the leg. This type of patellar luxation tends to be more severe and is more common in large breed dogs that have problems with their hips that may lead to misaligned bones in the legs.

Causes of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

The groove that the kneecap sits in is more shallow in many toy or small breed dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas and Maltese, leading to a genetic predisposition to patellar luxation. The condition can occur when the kneecap slips out of the groove or becomes dislocated due to trauma. Larger dogs including Golden Retrievers, Akitas and Boxers are also at risk.

How Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs is Diagnosed

If your dog has been showing any of the symptoms listed above, your primary vet or veterinary surgeon near Mamaroneck can perform a physical examination to officially diagnose the condition in the affected limb. For small dogs, most cases of patellar luxation can be diagnosed early on.

The veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis with X-rays, which will also help reveal the extent and severity of the condition, as well as the shape of the bones.

Grades of patellar luxation range from 1 through 6 and progress depending on severity, as follows:

Grade 1 - while the kneecap sits normally, it can luxate under slight pressure due to the shallowness of the groove.

Grades 2 & 3 - While the joint can usually still be manually replaced, these grades are typically more severe.

Grade 4 - At all times, the joint sits outside the groove and will not stay seated if replaced.

The diagnosis stage is critical, as it’s essential that your vet or veterinary surgeon obtains enough information to accurately grade your dog’s patellar luxation so an effective treatment plan can be developed.

How Kneecap Dislocation in dogs is Treated

Treatment will vary according to which grade of patellar luxation your dog is diagnosed with. Options are as follows:

Supportive Treatment

Surgery will not usually be recommended for dogs with grade 1 luxation. Instead, your vet will probably recommend regular exercise and nutrition support to keep the kneecap from sliding out of place.

Reducing stress on the knee is essential, so you and your vet will need to ensure your dog is at a healthy weight for its size and use daily exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the kneecap. Chondroitin and glucosamine are two nutritional supplements that might be used to support the joint and its surrounding tissues.

Surgical Treatment

For patellar luxations that are above grade 2, surgery will usually be recommended. Once the condition reaches grade 4, surgery will be necessary. While there are different types of procedures, the goal is to replace the kneecap to its normal position and keep future slipping from occurring.

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, including by tightening the joint capsule to prevent it from slipping or deepening the groove where the patella sits. In more severe cases, veterinary surgical specialists may need to rotate a dog's leg bones back into the correct position as part of treating the condition.

Recovery of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Once they've had a kneecap replacement procedure, most dogs fully recover although activity will need to be restricted until the surgical area has healed. 

Make sure your dog has a quiet place where they can rest and that they don't bite or chew their incisions. If antibiotics have been described as a preventive measure against infection, ensure you administer the full course - otherwise there is risk an infection could develop and be more difficult to treat. 

Within one or two weeks after surgery, most dogs start to use the affected leg again. If your dog is still reluctant to place weight on the legs several weeks after the procedure, contact your vet and ask how you can retrain your dog to use the leg. Physical therapy may benefit your dog, and followup exams may be necessary, depending on the type of treatment. 

Continue to watch your pup closely in all cases for signs of a displaced joint, as the condition may recur or develop in a different knee. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think your dog may have a dislocated kneecap? Contact Miller Clark Animal Hospital right away. Our qualified veterinarians can diagnose conditions, diseases and injuries, and plan treatments.

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