It’s been almost two years since our Labrador retriever mix Luke was diagnosed with luxating patella, also known as patellar luxation or “trick knee”. I wrote two posts about this condition back then, but haven’t done a thorough update since. Below are links to those two posts.
Luxating Patella – What I’ve Learned:
Click here for Part 1 – Scientific Explanation of this Condition
Click here for Part 2 – Options for Treatment and Prognosis
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and I am only sharing what I’ve learned through research and our own experience. If you believe your pet has this condition, you should visit your own vet for professional advice. *This post contains affiliate links. If you order products through these links we will receive a small commission, and we thank you.
To this date, Part 2 of that series is my most visited post, and I still get many comments from pet families sharing their own stories of their dogs with this condition. That tells me that many people are dealing with this, and I felt I should give an update on how “conservative management” has been working for us.
Our own veterinarian recommended surgery for Luke’s Grade 2 (he has Grade 1 in one knee and 2 in the other), though not all vets do. We have not and probably never will rule out surgery, but our hope has always been to at least be able to wait until Luke is older and hopefully calmer. The recovery from surgery can be long and difficult. Right now, management is still working well for us. Here are the recommendations for non-surgical ways to help this condition:
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight, preferably on the lean side. I was surprised when reading some old posts to see that Luke weighed 73 pounds when he turned one year old. Now he averages around 62! He is very lean, but we think he looks great. You can feel but not see his ribs so I think he is at his ideal weight and that must make it easier on his joints.
- Keep your dog moving to develop and maintain strong muscle tone. Special attention can be paid to strengthening the back legs/quadriceps muscles. I’ve slacked a little bit in this department. I should get him out on hills more. We get outside moving every day though. I think swimming would also be an ideal low impact exercise for him, and I’m hoping next year we’ll get to put our pond in so he can go more often.
- Joint supplements. Because arthritis is almost inevitable whether there is surgery or not, it’s best to get those joints all the help they can get as soon as possible. We’ve tried some different ones over the last two years. They all seemed to work fine but we’ve switched when we think it could do better. He is currently on Dasuquin* and right now it’s working great.
- A low carbohydrate diet to benefit the joints. We stick to grain free food and try to choose meatier treats. We try to be sure any carbohydrates he does get are healthier options. There’s so much information out there on this subject that it can get confusing though; we simply do our best. We will be switching to and reviewing a new food soon, and I did extensive research to feel sure that this food will benefit him.
- Other therapies could include chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, and Adequan injections. We are not currently using any of these but we haven’t felt the need. Luke’s fearfulness would make most impossible anyway.
- We do a couple of additional things: we have stairs* going to our higher bed and the couch. We still have difficulty getting Luke to use them all the time, especially when he’s excited, but we try. I think moving to our new house where there are far less stairs to run on or leap over has to be a benefit as well.
- The throw rugs we have added to our wood floors are helping Luke as well as Cricket with her arthritis. We don’t discourage Luke from running or playing; but when choosing an activity/sport for him I went with nose work since it is low impact. We still might try some different agility that doesn’t involve jumps, or only do low jumps. I’m trying to find more low impact ways for him to get exercise.
With all that in mind, we still know that surgery may be in his future. But I’m happy to say we don’t see his knee pop out very often, maybe once a month at the most. He rarely yelps when it happens, and usually just keeps going on 3 legs. He seems to know how to get the knee to pop back in by just extending his leg. Winter may be a little tougher, especially if it’s icy, but we are also more diligent then.
Right now, we are very happy with what we’re doing for Luke and we hope that we can continue this good trend for quite a while. This is what works for us, but remember if your dog has been diagnosed with luxating patella, you need to consider all your options and what is best for your dog, along with the help of your veterinarian.
XIOMARA ORELLANA says
Thanks for your advise. My dog has been recently diagnosed with it and it has been very hard on him. He has stage 2 but he has developed so many fears. He no longer goes to the backyard because of all the steps he needs to come up. At least I got him walking two to 3 times a day (which he didn’t before because he will roam free in the backyard). I also bought a center rug for my bedroom since he shakes when getting out of his bed because he slips a lot. I just bought it today and does not want to go inside but will work on it. I didn’t think of putting area rugs through the house ( I don’t like any type of rugs) but I am willing to do it for him. He is a year and a half and my worst fear is the recuperation period and I also decided after doing a lot of research to wait until he is older and will try to make it as easier for him as possible. I am looking into a good diet, he is only 64 pounds and was told by doctor he is not overweight but will try to go as lean as possible.
I’m sorry to hear that your dog has this condition too, and that it’s causing him to have other issues as well. It sounds like you have a good plan in place, and are doing all you can right now.
Our Luke is still doing well at 6 years old, with the knee not popping out too often. I think the area rugs help him a lot, so I hope your dog can get used to those.
We feed a fresh food diet which in my opinion is best. See my link for The Farmer’s Dog just to the right of this and up a little bit in the sidebar. It might be something you want to give a try.
Good luck to you, and I hope you can get things under control. I worry most about recuperation too, especially with larger dogs like we have.
Our 13 month old Frankie who is also a lab mix was playing in the park when he appeared to have landed on his hind leg wrong, began yelping, limping and not putting weight on his left hind leg. 5 minutes later he was ok..over the next few days when he extended his hind legs stretching he would yelp and come back towards us limping. We felt his affected leg after this happened and felt a “pop” and Frankie was ok after this…we are thinking it’s a luxated petella. We went to the vet but ours won’t give a diagnosis and states she only will under sedation and xrays and we are not in the market for surgery… any advice?? We are desperate for our fun guy to be back to his normal self 🙁
That’s surprising they won’t diagnosis him. From what I’ve learn this is kind of something to can tell by just feeling their leg. We got surgery on our dog, she was at the point she couldn’t walk to fast or bend down to eat so we had no choice to get the surgery. But they didn’t run x rays before they diagnosed her or even before the surgery. And I trusted them and even thought it was super expensive it was worth it. Her leg has no more problems she’s back to normal.
Rebecca, I’m so happy to hear that the surgery was a success for your dog!!
Yes, thank you. It wasn’t easy for her or my self really that’s for sure. But I’m happy we did it because she able to be her self again!
Ally, our vet also required sedation so the leg could be manipulated, which could be painful. I don’t remember whether there were also x-rays or not. After that there was a rest period for Luke which also seemed to help things to settle down.
My thoughts would be to either get a second opinion, or try a rest period along with some of the things I suggested here and see how it goes.
Luke continues to do well without the surgery, but I get so nervous every time his knee pops out! It does still happen but he has learned to pop it back in himself. It happens more in the winter I think because it’s slippery. We try not to let him overdo running or jumping, but mostly we just let him be a dog. Of course, I still don’t know what the choices we’ve made might mean for his future but so far so good!
Just got back from our vet today (we went to emergency services before). She thinks it is just a strain and to keep resting/light activity for a few months and we will go from there. Thank goodness she doesn’t feel surgery is necessary! Thank you so much for this blog, honestly helped me relax and stay calm during this injury.
That is great news, Ally, thank you for letting us know! You are very welcome….I’m so happy that our post was a help to you (and you sent those words when I really needed them most, so thank YOU for that). ♥
XIOMARA ORELLANA says
My dog was diagnosed first by his regular veterinarian who believed it could be Luxating Patella and referred me to a surgeon. Surgeon was also able to diagnose without sedation and Xrays and recommended surgery in the future to avoid more damage and/or arthritis. Perhaps you can take him to a surgeon and get a diagnose
My fiance and I just found out our guy (Albie) was born with two trick knees. He is just over a year and they said they wouldn’t typically suggest surgery, but since he is so young and he is part Aussie (other part is Golden) he is always going to be active so it’d be best to get the surgery. We are meeting with a Orthopedic Surgeon in a month and bought joint supplements and do grain free meals already. I was curious if you ever tried a brace for Luke and if it helped? I was looking into one for Albie, but want to get one that people recommend.
Sorry to hear about your Albie, but glad you are doing all you can for him. In all my research, I never saw anything about braces; and my vet never mentioned it either. Luke’s knee so rarely pops out now, I don’t think about it too much. However, it’s something I’d definitely like to find out more about in case we need it in the future.
I wish I could be more help there!
Rebecca S. says
We just ordered a brace from amazon hoping it works well
I hope so too! Let me know how you make out.
Rebecca S. says
We just found out our 10 month old chihuahua mix (Nala) has luxating patella in both legs with her left leg being much worse then the other the vet told us surgery is the only option and if we don’t her other leg would end up being the same she still plays and runs around even though she’s doing it on 3 legs most of the time I really don’t want to do surgery but most of the things I read with people avoiding surgery their dogs knee only pops out once in awhile :/ and Nala’s pops out after being up walking around for a few minutes as of now we plan to do surgery in hopes it will save the other leg from getting worse because she is putting more weight on that leg now. But it makes me happy to read they’re still able to live comfortably without surgery
Sorry to hear this about Nala. I remember when Luke first started with just one knee, and then afterwards I noticed his other knee pop out (it had been rated a Grade 1 when checked, but we hadn’t seen it pop out before). I’m sure it was because he had to use that leg more. But once we got things settled for him, we only see one leg go out. It actually just popped out the other day after he was running in the snow. It scares me every time it happens, especially because Luke is so fearful and has such a problem with going to the vet.
Yes, I agree with what you think…if Luke’s knee continued to pop out even after just walking, I would definitely consider the surgery too.
Recovery will be easier with a small dog too I hope, and I also hope for you that doing the surgery will keep the other leg healthier. Good luck, and thanks for commenting here!
2 Brown Dawgs says
Seeing Luke on your blog, I often forget that he has the issue with his knees. I am glad he has been able to avoid surgery. I bet swimming would be a good exercise for him. I wonder f hydro therapy would be a good option (provided you have one nearby). That would be structured so build the correct muscles.
I’ve been so focused on taking Sheba swimming this year, that Luke never got his chance. But next summer I’ll be able to focus on finding a quiet place where I can take him. (or, hopefully, we’ll be adding our own pond).
Unfortunately we don’t have a place for hydrotherapy nearby.
My girl friend thinks keeping her puppy as an open male will help his legs . I have read it does till his legs are fully developed but after that I don’t think it helps. Email address is email@example.com
I have heard that as well, Betty, and believe you are right that it does not help after they are fully developed. It’s just a matter of waiting to neuter until they are completely full grown.
I’m so glad you’ve been able to manage his luxating patella conservatively. What I found most interesting is these are all the very same things we are doing to treat Sampson’s partial CCL tear. We did start the Adequan injections with him and they have made a difference, so I highly recommend it, IF you feel he needs a little something more. 🙂
Wow, glad I found these posts. Our 13 month old golden retriever mix has bilateral luxating patellas. The right is worse than the left. It pops out almost daily, and sometimes multiple times a day. Our vet didn’t give it a “grade”, just indicated that it would not get any better and would likely only get worse (with increased risk to the acl) without surgery. She wants to do both at once. That seems like alot, given the recovery you’ve described, but OTOH, if you’re having to use a sling anyway to help them about, then maybe it’s better to just get them both done at once. I’m concerned about the recovery as well … he’s very active, bouncy, jumpy, etc.. If I take him out of the house and he sees another dog, he’s going to jump for joy, even at the end of the leash, yards away from them. As he is right now, I can walk him, but he can’t really play much without it popping out. Sometimes it pops right back in, sometimes not. And he’s very stiff/gimpy getting up from sleeping every AM. I don’t know what to do! I want him to have a happy, normal life where he can run and play and socialize. I’m just terrified of having the surgery and then having him blow it because he’s such a nutcase.
Hi Sondra – thank you so much for sharing your story, and I’m so glad that my posts have helped you. I’m sorry to hear your golden has this so bad though. It’s so tough to face slowing them down at such a young age.
My first reaction to doing both at once is how tough that would be. But I can see the logic of it. One surgery and recovery as opposed to two would be easier. It also seems to me that if done one at a time when doing the first one, it would be tough to put that additional pressure on the other leg while recovering too.
I know how tough this decision has to be for you! Surgery is hard to face because it feels so risky, but on the other hand being stiff daily and unable to play doesn’t seem great either. I don’t envy you this decision, but it’s obvious how much you love your dog so I know you’ll make the right one. Keep us posted!
Sand spring Chesapeake says
I’m so glad he is doing well and you are doing such a good job keeping him safe and hopefully from needing surgery. I don’t think out vets recommend surgery unless a grade 3-4.
That is good to know, thank you, JoAnn!
Miss Harper Lee says
Harper Lee was diagnosed with hip and elbow dysplasia when she was a little less than a year old. I did a post on her condition and the treatment options we’ve chosen (keeping her weight down, keeping her muscle tone up with plenty of walks and special exercises, supplements, and therapy on a water treadmill). Like you, I’ve heard from a number of dog owners who have received a similar diagnosis and have so many questions. I’m so happy you’ve been there for the people who have read your posts. Diagnoses like these are scary, and it’s so good to hear from someone who has been there. I’m glad that Luke is doing well, and I wish all of you continued good health.
P.S. One of our vets suggested giving fish oil tablets with the Dasuquin (1000 mg in the morning and 1000 mg at night). A study showed that the addition of the fish oil makes the Dasuquin more effective. If nothing else, it’s given Miss Lee a pretty and very soft coat.
Thank you for the tip about the Dasuquin and fish oil! We do give fish oil as well, but not at the same time. I wonder if that makes a difference? I love the benefits it has for their coats as well.
That has to be a tough and worrisome diagnosis for Miss Lee too, but it looks like she is doing well with what you’re doing.
When Luke was first diagnosed I could find a lot of technical and scientific information about his condition, most of it repetitive. But finding personal stories was almost impossible. That made me determined to continue to share his story, even if it just provides support to someone going through the same thing, I think it can be such a help.
Joanne wright says
Can you tell me what fish oil you use and how your pup is doing. We have a year old lab that has luxating patella in her left and possibly her right knee.
We are currently using OmegaBrite fish oil capsules. It sounds like your dog has been diagnosed at about the same age Luke was – so sorry. The good news is that Luke is still doing very well. His knee still pops out on occasion, but easily pops back in. So far so good. Wishing it can go as well with your Lab – have they graded them?
Thanks. We got the results back from the x ray and our vet says grade 4/5. We ar waiting to hear from surgeon if he wants to operate given Our dog is so young, she just turned one this past week.
Have you heard any studies about this type of surgery and the dish of bone cancer ?
Sorry to hear about the grade…it’s tough to face surgery and recovery when they’re so young and still active.
I have not read of any relationship between this surgery and bone cancer. The only thing I read of concern down the road would be arthritis. And that is bound to happen whether you have surgery or not; plus arthritis is pretty common in older dogs anyway. We’ve had two dogs with it and it’s been very manageable.
Good luck to you, and sorry you have to deal with this. Please let me know how things go.
All Things Collie says
We have been looking for a canine chiropractor for a while. (Different issue) there are so few of them, I’m hoping more veterinarians go through the training!
I hope so too. We have very limited access to any alternative treatments where we live as well.
Thank you for sharing this important information. I am glad you have found the right regime to help Luke.
Tenacious Little Terrier says
I’m glad Luke is doing well with his regime. Our foster dog had LP and I’m always paranoid that Mr. N might be showing signs as Yorkies are prone to the condition.
I actually thought our beagle Cricket had it too, but it turned out her knee issues were arthritis. Hopefully you’re only imagining things with Mr. N! 🙂
Luke seems to be doing just fine and that’ because you’re keeping a very good eye on him.
I love that photo of Luke lying on the bed with his legs on the stairs! We don’t let Daisy jump anymore either since she tore her ACL and we considered getting stairs for her to get on the couch, but she’d just go back to jumping anyway. She’s just not calm enough, especially if the doorbell rings, someone comes in, or she hears a sound outside that she just MUST respond to. I really miss those couch cuddles!
It’s really tough to slow them down sometimes, isn’t it? Around here, it’s not just Luke but Cricket too that we have to watch closely. It’s even worse when they egg each other on! We have a lot of drama around here over things, real or imagined, that they think they see or smell outside. 🙂
Brian Frum says
Way to go Luke, you’re sure doing good…keep it going! Hopefully there will be some easier surgery options in the future.
We hadn’t really thought of that, but we hope you’re right!
Fantastic, informative post! It’s probably good that Luke has two young-at-heart sisters 🙂
Thank you! Luke has helped to keep his sisters young-at-heart too, so they’ve all definitely been a benefit to each other.
Christine Caplan says
There is so much great food for thought in this article – we did Adequan injections with our Sandy that passed away and I think those helped a ton with her osteoarthritis. We also need a good joint supplement for Bruiser so I’ll try your recommendation – thanks for that link. Luke is a sweetie!
You’re welcome! It’s good to hear that about the Adequan injections. If we can get Luke less fearful of strangers it may be an option in the future.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Luke is one lucky lil fella! Happy to hear he’s doing well. Are you excited to have your first Christmas in your gorgeous new home?
Oh yes! I’ve been busy perusing catalogs and ordering new decorations! New home needs some new stuff along with the old, right? I’m so excited I might not be able to wait until after Thanksgiving like I usually do. 🙂
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
It appears that the options you’ve been going with have helped manage Luke’s “trick knee” issue. Great job! Hopefully it’ll be several years before surgery is necessary. Kisses to the furkids from my furkids and me!!
Paws crossed it continues to work. Kisses right back to all of you! ♥
M. K. Clinton says
I’m happy to read that Luke is doing good. I have a bad knee and understand that it can’t be very painful. ♥
I know so many people with bad knees, and many that have had surgery. I hope yours is not too bad. ♥
I’m glad that Luke is still doing so well! It doesn’t look like this is keeping him from enjoying life one bit. He’s lucky to have you guys!
It works both ways. 🙂 ♥
Glad it is going well with Luke. Devastating things always seem to happen, but we learn to live with them. Good for Luke!
Two French Bulldogs says
Good info. My surgery helped me
Lily (& Edward)
We’re so glad to hear that!
Mary Hone says
Those are good tips. Roxy has had this for a number of years, and it seems to be getting worse as she ages. The vet said just the other day she is creakier in that knee. She does need to lose a few ounces, I know that always makes a difference with her.
I knew Roxy had arthritis but didn’t realize or forgot she had this as well. Did you ever consider surgery or just always manage it?
Mrs Lorna J Griffith says
Luke looks fabulous! He and you seem to be managing his condition wonderfully. I have exactly the same problem as Luke and the treatment is the same. Hope he has many more years before surgery. Kisses on the noseys to all xx
We hope you can manage yours as well and don’t have to have surgery either!! xxoo