Since Luke has been diagnosed with luxating patella, I wanted to share more about it. I got information from our vet and vet tech, as well as doing research on the internet (reputable websites only). What I had difficulty finding were personal stories of people that had been through this with their dogs. That’s part of why I want to share our story about it, along with what I’ve learned about the condition.
Disclaimer(s): 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 has been reworked from it’s original publication; slight re-wording and re-formatting, along with the addition of *affiliate links. If you order products through these links we may receive a small commission.
The science: Also known as patellar luxation and floating kneecap.
What is it? A dog’s patella, or kneecap, protects their knee joint. Two bony ridges form a groove in their femur alongside the kneecap, and it normally glides up and down that groove when the joint is bent. Some dogs have grooves that are too shallow, which causes the patella to jump out (luxate) of the grooves sideways. Then the leg locks up, causing the dog to be unable to straighten and walk on their leg.
What causes this? This condition can be caused by trauma, but in most cases it is genetic and congenital (they are born with it). It can be diagnosed at 4 months of age or younger, or at any age, with around a year most common. Luke is 13 months old and we didn’t see any sign of this until he yelped and held up his leg on Thanksgiving night.
Who gets it? It is more common in smaller breeds such as miniature and toy poodles, Pomeranians (supposedly Luke has this breed in his DNA…hmm), and several terriers: Jack Russell, Yorkshire, and Boston. But it is also found in large breeds such as Labrador retriever, golden retriever, huskies, and Great Pyrenees. Cats can have it as well.
How bad is it? There are four different degrees or grades of luxation. In Grade 1, the kneecap can be manually moved out but easily slips back into place. In Grade 2, the kneecap pops out on its own, but can be manually popped back in. In Grade 3, it is out most of the time but can still be put back in. In Grade 4 it is stuck outside, causing the dog to be most likely unable to use their leg at all. Luke has Grade 1 in his left kneecap and Grade 2 in his right.
How is it diagnosed? Luke yelped when running in the snow, then came back to me with his leg in the air. It eventually righted itself and he was fine. It happened intermittently over a few days and so we took him to our vet. This is probably the most common way to know there is a problem, but people may also notice a skip in their dog’s gait or that they sit with their knee stuck out.
Luke had to be sedated so that our vet could manually manipulate the leg to see what is going on. Sedation may not always be required, but possibly more in large breed dogs who don’t easily relax their muscles for that manipulation. X-rays can be performed, but our vet did not think that was necessary unless we were looking at surgery.
Are they in pain? Grades 1 and 2 are not extremely painful. Luke only seems to feel pain when the knee pops out, and not every time. In the 3 weeks we’ve been dealing with this now, he has only yelped a very few times. In Grades 3 and 4, the cartilage is probably worn leading to bone to bone contact which can be far more painful.
I don’t want this to get too lengthy, so I am going to break it into two parts. In Part 2 I will write about the different treatments and the prognosis for this condition.
I do want to give a quick update on Luke though. We are still doing our best to keep him resting now. I talked to our vet’s office this morning and they want him resting for two more weeks. His muscles and tissues are pulled due to the luxation and resting will help those heal. His knee is popping out far less often (we even went 2 complete days without it happening at all), and seems to pop back in more quickly. He has started taking joint supplements and we are trying to get him to lose just a couple of pounds to reduce stress on his joints. I’ve started taking him for short walks daily to try to start to build up his muscle strength.
We have all of our stairs inside the house gated off* to keep him from running up and down them so frequently (he doesn’t know how to go slow, or use all of the steps), and I’m training him to use these Pet Gear stairs* up to the couch to reduce his jumping on and off of it. More on all of that next time!
You can read Part 2 in this series by clicking here.
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We are currently dealing with this same issue. Out dog is just over a year, hes a hound mix and has grade 2 luxating patella. They did xrays and decided it was possible tearing of the ccl ligament in both legs due to inflammation build up. Our current vet wants us to do surgery to correct the luxating patella and check for tears but the cost of surgery is insane and we are trying to save up to get him something. Our pup isnt on any pain relievers but he does okay most days. He does sort of hop instead of a normal running stride and he walks backward on slippery floors to keep from hurting himself. I was curious to know what other treatments your vet is recommending so i can run them by ours. We are considering a third opinion to see what our options are or if someone else can do the surgeries for cheaper.
Hi Jessica – So sorry to hear you are dealing with this with your dog too! It sounds like the possible ccl ligament tears could complicate things. Really, surgery is the only thing our vet recommended. Did you read part 2 in this series (the link is at the end of this post). In that, I wrote more detail about the surgery, and I also shared what we were going to do on our own (joint supplements, etc.). We have still not pursued surgery, as Luke’s knee still only pops out on occasion, and goes back in on its own.
Does your dog actively limp and/or does his knee frequently pop out?
Many vets don’t recommend surgery for a Grade 2, but if there is a possibility of the ccl tear, that may make it more warranted. I would definitely agree that another opinion certainly can’t hurt.
Let me know how you make out!
I actually didnt see pt. 2 at first but i just read it. We were qoluored at a farchigher cost if surgery for each leg (5 to 6 grand) and are currebtky fundraising while looking for a third opinion and trying to find financial aid. The hope is that we can find a vetcwho will do it cheaper and that when they do the surgery they find no or little tearing… He moves arou d great most days but he akready gas telling signs of arthritis in his knees according to the xrays so he gets stiff quickly. None the less we cant slow him diwn too much, hes a blissfully unaware pup. He doesnt limp as often anymore, some of his initial lumping was caused by stress fractures in both knees that he had been prone to gettigf but gad healed up between xrays. We see him limp may e once or twice a week but were told that it will only get worse if we do not proceed with surgery. I hope your pooch doesnt have to go through surgery, it seems as though it’s a 12 week heal time and our guy has to do it twice, meaning he will be missing out on summer all together (we are in washington so summer is the only time we get out to hike and such with Our dogs and kids).
Yikes – that is a lot of money! We live in a rural area with kind of an old fashioned vet so costs tend to be cheaper here. But that’s still a big difference. I’m glad to hear that you are doing some fundraising; please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help; share your story or anything like that.
I read that the recovery from the surgery could be rough, and that’s why we’ve put it off for Luke. We’re hoping when he gets a bit older and hopefully calmer it will be easier. But in your situation I can see why you wouldn’t want to wait too long.
Please keep me posted, and good luck with everything!
I’m glad to hear that Luke’s been making progress. I totally understand what it’s like having a dog that doesn’t know what it means to walk up/down stairs and doesn’t take all the stairs! Barley flies over half the stairs every time. I literally laughed out loud when I saw the picture of Cricket going through the gate!
Ha ha, I’m so glad you enjoyed that picture of Cricket! Sometimes being small does pay off!
Luke likes to go 100% all the time and that definitely will be a factor in what we decide to do for his knee.
I came upon this article as my dog sits to one side and legs out like the dog in the picture. I never knew about the knee, but sitting like that can also mean Hip Dysplasia. I believe Bella may have this.
I don’t know much about hip dysplasia, but I would guess that this would be the better diagnosis of the two things, since for the most part it can be fixed if you choose to do surgery. Luke is still doing well right now with simply management.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Hey we have that gate. That is the one Freighter can open if we don’t lock it. 🙂 Interesting post. Poor Luke stuck on rest. I hope he will be feeling better soon.
He seems to be making progress, with the leg being held up far less often than it was.
We had to lock that gate too when we used it to keep Luke downstairs when he was younger, but he doesn’t seem to bother it when it’s at the top of the stairs for some reason.
Barbara Rivers says
Missy & Buzz are sending healing thoughts & positive energy Luke’s way!
Thank you so much to Missy and Buzz…we need all the help we can get!
Jackie Bouchard says
Hope the resting helps. So hard to keep a hyper pup down, but sounds like you’re doing a great job with him!
We’re doing the best we can, and I sure hope it’s going to be good enough. Other than completely confining him, we just can’t stop him from moving at high speeds sometimes! LOL
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
I’ve heard of it before but never knew what it was, so thank you for the great explanation! Like everyone said, you made it very easy to understand. Now that Callie is just past the halfway point in her post-op rehab, it’s getting more and more difficult to keep her from playing with her sisters. And she’s 10-1/2! So good luck with Luke. Glad he seems to be improving with rest!
Oh boy, I can understand that. Part of the problem keeping Luke quiet is that his 10 year old sister wants to play with him! These goldens don’t really grow up, do they? I love it though. Luke has made Sheba younger and I hope he’ll be able to continue to do that.
I’d be curious how the patella surgery and recovery might compare to the ACL (that’s what Callie had right?) surgery. I might have to look into that as part of my further research.
Good information! I’ll be checking back in if this comes up later in life!
We hope you won’t have to deal with it!
The Island Cats says
We hope Luke continues to improve. We know cats that have had this condition and have recovered or had to have surgery.
Thank you! We had a cat with a broken hip and leg once, and keeping cats confined isn’t easy either! We would hope that it doesn’t have to come to that for all animals that might have this condition.
What a great description! You made it so easy to understand. I’m hoping Luke will not require surgery. Looking forward to updates.
Thank you, Sue! I’m glad I was able to explain it so everyone could understand, I tried to keep it simple because I know that’s how I like it to be (there’s nothing worse than when a doctor talks in big words that are way over your head).
Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes says
What a clear and easy-to-understand description. It sounds like being careful with Luke is already helping him. Hopefully he won’t require too-invasive treatment.
I’m not real good with scientific stuff, and know I needed it to be simple so I could understand what I was saying!
So far we feel like he’s making progress and even if surgery is needed, if it’s not for a few years when he’s a bit older we’d be pretty happy with that, considering the alternatives.
Talent Hounds says
Didn’t know about this until now, thanks for sharing. Hope Luke makes a speedy recovery!
We’ll settle for a recovery, no matter how fast it comes. LOL So far, so good!
Diane @ To Dog With Love says
Rocco has a slight lactating patella too, Grade 1 on one leg. I noticed it because of a skip in his step, but his is so slight we’re just doing exercises to keep him strong and he takes a supplement. We did some PT too. Glad to hear Luke’s is pretty mild. Looking forward to the second part!
And Rocco still does agility, correct? I hope to find out more about different exercises we can do with Luke to help him out. I so wish we had a place around here that we could take him swimming during the winter.
This is SO helpful. My sister’s dog has been diagnosed with that, though I’m not sure what grade? I’ll be sending her each post in the series for reference! Good luck with the resting… it’s so hard with young, energetic pups!
Maggie, I’m so glad to hear that this might help someone else too. If you hear anything from your sister as far as her dog and what grade he/she is, I would love to know.
The resting is actually going better than expected….Luke is really such a good boy!
many thanks for a very good explanation and a very important post. it’s storaged in my first aid folder now. I’m glad Luke feels better and I hope you can manage the resting-challenge :o) You really can use the cat door, Luke?
Once upon a time he could use the cat door! It’s hard now to believe he was ever that small! Now that we can at least walk him that is helping.
I hope the post might help someone one day, though I also hope no one else needs it! 🙂
Sand spring chesapeakes says
We’ll done great information. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope Luke continues to do well and no surgery is needed.
Thank you….I hope the information here can help anyone else that is faced with this. It’s not all bad news, and right now we are just trying to take it one day at a time.
That’s all pretty much what we do for Roxy. It is odd though, because I have noticed her knee doesn’t seem to go out as much as it used to. Good luck with Luke, I’m sure he will be fine.
I’m glad to hear that having this condition doesn’t mean they can’t improve, and doesn’t mean that surgery will be required. We’re hoping not to have to face that. We also know it can lead to arthritis down the road, but a lot of dogs get that anyway when they age.
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
This is all so interesting to learn about as I had never even heard of this until you shared when it first happened to Luke. I hope the joint supplement and muscle building walks help. Poor pup 🙁
ღ Happy Howlidays! ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
We really feel like the joint supplements are definitely helping. We just started the walks but maybe that will get him the rest of the way. He’s really being such a good boy about it all!
Thanks for the info. I’ve never had a dog with this so totally unfamiliar. I’m glad Luke is starting to do better, I know what a challenge it can be to keep young dogs quiet! Good luck.
I’d never even heard of it before….and wish I didn’t have to know about it now! Hopefully keeping him quiet now will at least be able to put off any more drastic measures (surgery) for at least a few years. Overall, he’s doing pretty well about being quiet….for the most part (occasionally he totally loses it and just wants to RUN). Being able to walk him now is definitely helping some.
Hope it gets better for him.
Thank you, Jim!
Wow! We sure hope there is a solution so he little guy can get back to having fun. This is all new to us too!
Hopefully keeping him slowed down now will pay off in the long run. There is a surgery available, but that recovery is about 10 weeks long…yikes….more on that in the next post of course.