Ask Seth: Luxating Patellas

I took my 2-yr. old dog to the vet because he would not eat. The vet discovered he has two bad kneecaps. He is very active. What is going to happen down the road?


Hi Seth,

I took my dog to the vet because he would not eat, and the vet discovered that he has two bad kneecaps. He is only 2 years old and I am really worried. Right now, he is very active and it does not seem to bother him. What is going to happen down the road?

Marta Novotny

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It sounds like you are describing luxating patellas. Patella luxations occur when the groove for the kneecap comes out of the groove usually towards the inside, called a medial patella luxation (MPL). This causes the knee to lock up and dogs sometimes hold that leg off the ground. This motion is what causes the painful vocalization - as the quadriceps is flexed, it keeps the patella in the out position. Once the muscle relaxes the patella slides back into the normal position and all is well.

MPL’s are most commonly found in miniature and toy breeds like Dachshund, Toy Poodles, Chihuahua, Boston Terriers and Shih Tzu. A proper evaluation by a veterinarian can grade the MPL and allow the development of a treatment plan. A less severe MPL in a small dog may be intermittently problematic and can possibly be managed with controlled exercise and anti-inflammatory medications. For more severe cases, surgical correction can be curative. The surgery will fix the movement of the patella and the groove it rides in. Animals usually respond very quickly to this surgery and are back to full activity within 60 days. If left untreated, the ridge that keeps the patella in place will wear down and allow for arthritis to invade the joint, decreasing mobility. Surgery is not required in all cases. Your veterinarian will choose the best treatment for your dog.


Seth Mayersohn, CVT

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