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What Are The Common Symptoms Of Luxating Patella?

A dog getting treated for luxating patella by animal therapist

Luxating patella, also known as patellar luxation or dislocated kneecap, is a common orthopaedic condition in pets, particularly in small dog breeds. This condition occurs when the kneecap slips out of its normal position, leading to discomfort, pain, and potential long-term joint damage. Early recognition of the common symptoms of luxating patella can help pet owners seek timely veterinary care and treatment, reducing the risk of further complications.

Common Symptoms of Luxating Patella

It’s essential to observe your pet’s behaviour and mobility, as early detection of luxating patella can greatly impact their long-term health. The most common symptoms include:

  1. Limping or lameness: Pets with a luxating patella may suddenly start limping, favouring the affected leg, or appear lame when walking or running.
  2. Skipping or hopping gait: A characteristic symptom of luxating patella is a skipping or hopping gait. The pet may momentarily lift the affected leg off the ground while walking or running, then continue moving as if nothing happened.
  3. Reluctance to exercise or jump: Pets suffering from patellar luxation may be less inclined to engage in physical activities, climb stairs or jump onto surfaces. This can be due to discomfort or pain associated with the condition.
  4. Pain or discomfort: Although not always obvious, pets with luxating patella may exhibit signs of pain or discomfort, such as whimpering, yelping, or licking the affected knee.
  5. Swelling or inflammation: The affected knee may appear swollen or inflamed, especially if the luxation has occurred recently or the joint has become irritated.
  6. Stiffness or decreased mobility: Pets with chronic luxating patella may exhibit stiffness or decreased mobility, particularly after periods of rest or inactivity.

Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors can contribute to the development of luxating patella in pets:

  • Genetics: Luxating patella is more common in certain breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas. This suggests a genetic predisposition for the condition.
  • Trauma: An injury to the knee, such as a fall or collision, may cause a previously healthy patella to luxate.
  • Congenital abnormalities: Pets with structural abnormalities in their knee joint may be more prone to luxating patella.

Diagnosing and Treating Luxating Patella

If you suspect your pet may have a luxating patella, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination and diagnosis. Your vet may perform a physical examination and may recommend additional diagnostic tests such as x-rays to assess the severity of the condition.

Treatment options for luxating patella can vary depending on the severity and the pet’s overall health:

  1. Conservative management: Mild cases of luxating patella may be managed through conservative methods, such as weight management, controlled exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications.
  2. Surgery: For more severe cases or when conservative management fails to alleviate symptoms, surgery may be recommended to correct the underlying issue and stabilize the knee joint.
  3. Rehabilitation: Post-surgical rehabilitation or ongoing physical therapy can play a crucial role in your pet’s recovery, helping to improve their mobility, strengthen muscles, and reduce the risk of future injury.

By being aware of the common symptoms of luxating patella, pet owners can take swift action to address the issue and ensure their pets receive appropriate care. Early diagnosis and intervention can greatly improve the prognosis for pets with this condition, promoting a more comfortable and active life.

Dr. Sara Lam

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