An orthopaedic condition in your dog that results in the dislocation of their kneecap is termed luxating patella. The kneecap bone or patella usually slides up and down the groove within which it is located as the knee bends. Luxating or dislocation of the patella results in your pet pooch skipping a step.

When your pet struggles to bend their knee correctly, it causes them pain and impairs their walking. Kneecaps shifting out of alignment mostly occur in tiny breeds like Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas. Treatment for luxating patella in dogs is recommended when you notice them:

  • Crying with pain
  • Frequently limping
  • Licking their knee
  • Not using the affected leg while walking
Most often, dogs with this condition are born with a defect that becomes apparent in later years. The other cause is attributed to trauma arising from an injury or accident that affects their kneecap.

Diagnosis and Grading


Your furry pal may display signs of the luxating patella in one or both its hind legs. A qualified vet can make an accurate diagnosis by physically examining your dog. Since this condition varies in severity, grading determines the level of treatment required. The four grades assigned are explained below:

  • Grade I is the mildest, wherein manual pressure causes the kneecap to dislocate and realign instantly on release. 
  • Grade II applies when the kneecap shifts out of position on manually applying pressure and requires manual adjustments to set right. 
  • Grade III indicates a dislocated kneecap that returns to its original position with manual pressure; however, spontaneously luxates in the absence of pressure. 
  • Grade IV points towards a permanent dislodging of the kneecap, which manual pressure fails to rectify.

Treatment for Luxating Patella in Dogs

If your loyal companion falls in the Grade-I category, he or she can rebuild muscle strength with anti-inflammatory medication and physical rehabilitation therapy. Surgery is advisable for Grade III and Grade IV cases as your pet pooch usually experience significant pain and lameness.

Some dogs assessed with Grade II severity have severe cartilage damage. Hence, surgery is suggested to better their quality of life. The ultimate goal of luxating patella surgeries on canines is to ensure the affected knee cap stays in place and moves normally.

By realigning supporting structures around the knee joint, veterinary surgeons achieve their goal. When both the hind limbs are affected, the most affected knee is operated upon first. Surgical procedures commonly:

  • Deepen the groove where the kneecap sits on the femur
  • Laterally move the joint attaching the kneecap with the shinbone
  • Reinforce the soft tissue structures of the knee joint

When your pet's gait is adversely impacted or sudden lameness occurs, surgery becomes necessary. Abnormal gait, when left unattended, may worsen your dog’s condition.

Recuperating From Surgery

Dogs that undergo luxating patella corrective surgery are likely to resume their playful activities a few months down the line. Following the surgery, the area operated upon must be allowed to heal completely. For this reason, your loyal companion may require to wear a brace or a soft bandage for around five days.

Ideally, restrict their exercise routine for a few weeks, and limit their walks by attaching a short leash for bathroom visits. Confining your dog to a smaller space during the recovery phase helps restrict excessive movements that could be more damaging.

Physical rehabilitation also contributes to preventing the affected limb from losing muscle mass. Besides, put your pet on a strict and healthy diet to safeguard against obesity which puts unnecessary stress on its delicate knees. Organic food and dietary supplements contribute to making affected joints stronger.

Learn from specialised vets who know what would be the best treatment for luxating patella in dogs.