Patellar luxation in dogs: all about the knee injury

Your dog suddenly becomes paralyzed? Then he could possibly suffer from a patellar luxation. You can find out exactly what that is, what symptoms there are and which treatment is useful here. If a patella luxation is suspected, the examination by the veterinarian - Shutterstock / Maria Sbytova - usually helps

Your dog has suddenly lost the desire to run? It even looks like he's lame? Then be careful! There is a risk that your four-legged friend will suffer from a patellar luxation. Veterinarians understand this to be a knee joint injury in which the animal's kneecap is dislocated.

Smaller dog breeds are particularly affected. This includes:

• Yorkshire Terrier
• Chihuahua
• Pekingese
• French bulldogs

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

Typical signs of patellar luxation

The kneecap of a dog - also called patella in technical language - consists of a disc-shaped flattened bone, which is located in front of the knee joint. If the kneecap is dislocated, it no longer remains in the usual place, but always jumps out of its slide channel in the thigh bone.

The result: the animal places the wrong leg on the affected leg and suffers from severe pain. Hobbling or occasionally skipping steps are typical symptoms of patellar luxation. Here is an overview of the signs of patella luxation:

• lame
• Relief of the affected leg every few steps
• Don't feel like going for a walk
• pain
• Bouncing, dropping gear

Possible causes of a knee injury

The causes of patella luxation are many. Pathological bone changes are often to blame. The knee injury can also be due to a weak connective tissue. The most common triggers are the following:

Bone-related patella luxation

In the first place, genetic factors are decisive in bone-related patella luxation. Too flat a channel or a knee cap that is too large is often the reason. A malposition of the hind legs is also one of the bone-related causes. If your dog has bow or X-legs, the knee cap will jump out of the slide channel inwards or outwards due to the overstretched side straps.

Connective tissue and muscle weaknessn

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

Knee sprain caused by accident

Another possible cause of patella luxation can be an accident in which the kneecap was thrown out of the joint. However, this form of knee injury is extremely rare and can usually be straightened out.

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The diagnosis of patellar luxation

If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from a patella dislocation, you should definitely consult a veterinarian. The examines and palpates the affected leg exactly when lying and standing. The veterinarian will also ask you to let your fur nose go back and forth in practice. An X-ray examination then provides information about the extent of the knee injury and the possible treatment.

Severity levels of patella luxation and subsequent treatment

Before recommending treatment, the vet will first assess the severity of the knee injury. There are a total of four grades that are different and therefore require different treatments.

Grade 1

Does your four-legged friend suffer from grade 1 patella luxation? Then the kneecap can be manually pushed out of the channel and jumps back into the correct position without any problems. In this case, an operation is not necessary. However, treatment in the form of nutritional supplements is recommended. This strengthens the joints and promotes cartilage building.

Grade 2

In the event of occasional dislocations of the kneecap, which usually jumps back to the correct position independently or when the hind legs move, one speaks of a patella luxation grade 2. Here too, treatment with dietary supplements is sufficient. However, if this method does not have the desired effect, surgery should be considered.

Grade 3

If the kneecap continues to dislocate and the shin is noticeably twisted, then your dog has a third degree patellar luxation. The affected leg can then no longer be stretched. The patella can be moved back into the slide channel by manual pressure, but it jumps out again within a very short time. However, before the vet directly considers surgery, you should first feed your animal with supplements and go to physiotherapy. Often, these treatments can provide relief.

Grade 4

If the vet diagnoses grade 4 patella luxation, 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 manually inserted. The wear on the bones and the slide channel is simply too great.

Operation vs. alternative treatment

Since surgery costs for a knee injury are not exactly 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 were unsuccessful
• Dog suffers from excess weight, knee is loaded with too much weight

Stay away from an operation:

• Dog is still young, is growing
• No disruption from patellar luxation
• No pain
• Supplements help

Preventive measures against patellar luxation

So that your dog does not get a patellar luxation in the first place, you should make sure that the little one does not strain his joints too much already in puppy age. Also, make sure you have a balanced diet with sufficient but not excessive nutrient supply. It is also important that your four-legged friend does not become overweight.