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Patella Luxation in Dogs - What's the Deal?

Has your dog recently been diagnosed with a problem called patella luxation? Are you worried what the future holds for your canine or feline companion? Here’s some information to help you understand a little more about the situation….

Patella luxation simply means dislocation of the knee cap when of course it should sit centrally within a groove at the end of the thigh bone (femur) and glide up and down as the knee bends and straightens. Historically patella luxation has been associated primarily with small-breed dogs such as the Miniature Poodle, Cavalier King Charles and Terrier breeds but it can be a problem in dogs of all shapes and sizes. If your dog has been diagnosed with luxating patella’s you may have heard your vet refer to a specific grade. This grade refers to a system that is used to determine the severity of the problem and consequently how it is best treated. The grading system starts at 1 (mild) and progresses to 4 (severe), with the moderate to severe cases often requiring and benefitting from surgical intervention.

If your dog has been diagnosed with luxating patella’s try not to be too disheartened, there are lots of things that can be done to help your dog lead a full and happy life; physiotherapy been one of them! As with most musculoskeletal conditions, the aim in the first instance is to control pain, reduce inflammation and avoid any activities that aggravate the problem. Some vets may also encourage the use of a brace to try and prevent re-dislocation in the hope that this will allow damaged soft tissues to heal. Historically, physiotherapeutic management has focussed on grading exercise (how long you walk your dog for and the frequency), increasing muscle strength (particularly of the quadriceps at the front of the knee and the bottom muscles!), core stability and proprioceptive retraining. In mild to moderate cases physiotherapy can be very beneficial, however in cases where the underlying problem is bony abnormality, the success of conservative management alone will always be limited and you need to be guided by your vet as to the best way forward.

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