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What is Kneecap Dislocation?

A patellar luxation occurs when your dog’s kneecap is dislocated or slides out of its normal position. Dislocated kneecaps are usually due to a congenital defect, but can also be the result of trauma. This condition is the most common in young, small, or toy breeds, including:

  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Pomeranian
  • Chihuahua
  • Boston Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Papillons
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Maltese
  • Miniature Poodles

Certain large breed dogs are also predisposed to the patellar luxation, especially if they suffer from hip dysplasia. Treatment alternates according to the severity, or grade, of the luxation, but the prognosis is typically good.

The kneecap can dislocate for a variety of reasons, usually because of a congenital defect that prevents the patella from staying seated in its groove. Many cases of patellar luxation are mild and do not require surgical treatment, though, in more severe or persistent cases, surgery will be needed to prevent future complications.

Kneecap Dislocation Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Symptoms of patellar luxation vary according to the severity of the condition and include:

  • Limping or lameness
  • Reluctance to place weight on the limb
  • Discomfort

The clinical signs are often intermittent and sudden. Your dog may exhibit an irregular gait for a few steps, usually with one limb raised from the ground, before resuming a normal walk.

Types

There are two types of patellar luxation in dogs: medial and lateral:

  • Medial luxation, which is the more common form, occurs when the dog’s joint slips towards the opposite leg. This prevents the dog from extending its knee normally though often times the kneecap will slide back into position by itself after a few steps.
  • With lateral luxation, the kneecap slips to the outside of the leg, away from the body. This form of patellar luxation tends to impact the dog more severely and is more common in large breed dogs, where hip problems may lead to misaligned bones in the legs.
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Causes of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Patellar luxation transpires when the kneecap slips out of the groove in which it normally sits. This groove is shallower in many small or toy breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas, Maltese, and Yorkshire terriers, resulting in a genetic predisposition for the condition. A kneecap can also become dislocated as a result of trauma, and there has been a rise in occurrences in larger dogs, including Akitas, Boxers, and Golden Retrievers.

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Diagnosis of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Most cases of patellar luxation in small dogs are diagnosed early on when the puppy begins to show irregularities in its gait. If the kneecap is dislocated at the time of your office visit, the veterinarian can easily diagnose the condition with a physical examination of the affected limb. The diagnosis can be confirmed via x-rays, which also help determine the extent of the condition and reveal the shape of the bones.

Patellar luxation is often graded based on severity, with levels ranging from 1 to 4. With grade 1 luxation, the kneecap sits normally but can luxate under slight pressure because of the shallowness of the groove. Grades 2 and 3 are more severe though the joint can typically still be replaced manually. A luxation is classified as grade 4 if the joint sits outside of the groove at all times and will not stay seated if replaced. Treatment depends on the severity of the luxation, so it is important that the veterinarian receives enough information to grade your dog’s condition appropriately.

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Treatment of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Treatment varies according to the grade that the veterinarian diagnoses.

Supportive Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with grade 1 luxation, surgery is not recommended. Instead, you can help prevent the kneecap from sliding out of place with regular exercise and supportive nutrients. It's critically important to reduce stress exerted on the knee by ensuring that your dog is at a proper weight for its size, and strengthen the muscles surrounding it through daily exercise. Nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, provide support to the joint and its surrounding tissues.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is usually recommended for luxated patellar graded 2 or above and is necessary for grade 4. There are different types of operations available though the goal is always to replace the kneecap to it's suggested, normal position and prevent future slipping. This can be accomplished by deepening the groove in which the patella sits or by tightening the joint capsule to prevent slippage. In more severe cases, the leg bones may need to be rotated back into the correct position as part of treatment.

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Recovery of Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs

Most dogs recover fully once the kneecap has been replaced though you will need to restrict your dog’s activity until the surgical site has healed. Provide a quiet place where your dog can rest, and make sure that it doesn’t bite or chew at the incisions. If the veterinarian prescribed antibiotics as a preventative measure against infection, be sure to administer the full course.

Your dog will most likely begin to use the affected leg again in one to two weeks following surgery. If your dog is still reluctant to place weight on the leg several weeks after treatment, contact the veterinarian, and ask how you can retrain your dog to use that leg. Follow-up exams may be necessary, depending on the treatment. In all cases, continue to monitor your dog for signs of a displaced joint, as the condition may recur or arise in a different knee.

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Kneecap Dislocation Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Kneecap Dislocation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Hayley

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Bichon Frise

dog-age-icon

14 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Does Not Use Her Left Back Leg

My dog suddenly started limping 4 days ago. I took her to the vet, who diagnosed her with patellar luxation (radiograph also showed some arthritis). The vet was able to push her kneecap back in place, but it comes out again when she walks and she limps. The vet does not recommend surgery because of her age. I asked about a brace for her and the vet said "no, a brace would twist". Are there braces available for this problem that would help my dog? She's healthy and very active jumping and running until this happened to her.

Aug. 22, 2018

Hayley's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

There are not braces for that problem for dogs, no. Braces tend to cause more problems than helping in dogs. Keeping her on her pain medication will be the best thing that you can do for her, and know that she may occasionally have this problem. I hope that she does well.

Aug. 22, 2018

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Kayda

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

dog-age-icon

24 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hello. I have a pure bread female english staffy. At approx 1 year old she was diagnosed with a dislocated patella on her right leg. She underwent surgery and her symptoms began to worsen after that, the vet put her under again and found that the pin in her leg was pushing against the back of her knee which caused pain when trying to sit. She still has symptoms and doesn't use that leg still when walking or running. has the vet performed the surgery wrong and should we get a second opinion?

July 13, 2018

Kayda's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Kayda and seeing x-rays etc… I cannot say whether there has been an error in surgical approach, sometimes pins move after surgery through no fault of the operating Veterinarian; if you have some concerns you should visit another Veterinarian for an examination and x-ray to get their opinion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 13, 2018

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Apollo

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Hello, I have a six yr old Pitbull, Apollo was diag with Kneecap Dislocation to his back right knee. Not sure how to help him, he was born with no left foot so it just a pad. Doctor put him on pain meds and advised to keep him off of it for two weeks with little activity. Everything I'm reading states he needs to exercise it. I'm so confused on how to help him. To top everything off he was diag with cancer a month ago (Prednisone Tab 20mg 2.5 tab once a day). I am heart broken and don't know what to do to help him. I've looked at braces, dog wheelchairs, I just hate he is so confined. Please advise, he's been through so much until I adopted him from the SPCA and now this. What can I do???

June 9, 2018

Apollo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm not sure what degree of abnormality that Apollo has, and that makes it difficult for me to comment on whether he needs exercise restriction or more activity, unfortunately. Most orthopedic problems benefit from rest, but he sounds like he is a special situation. Since your veterinarian has seen him and is working with him, this would be an excellent question to ask for more clarification on so that you can help him as much as possible.

June 9, 2018

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Sadie

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Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Approximately 5 years ago I took my Maltipoo to the vet because she started holding up one of her back legs. They said it was a dislocated knee cap but on X-ray it was in the correct spot. Took her for a second opinion and upon feeling her knee they diagnosed her with a torn ccl. Given her small size it just healed on its own with scar tissue. She is now 11years old and is limping again after running for 30seconds. Sometimes she will lightly use it, other times she holds it up. Do you think this is a patellar issue or ccl? She doesn’t seem to be in any pain

May 21, 2018

Sadie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This could be either one really, without examining Sadie it is difficult to say; one problem with patellar dislocation (or luxation) is that the patellar may only ‘pop out’ every so often and mild cases can be difficult to detect. Given the time frame since the last examination you should visit a Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/patellar-luxations

May 21, 2018

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CoCo

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Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

6 Months

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness, Limping

Hi - My pet is not able to stand on left leg since 2 weeks ago. I spoke with vet and he performed manual examination and X-Ray. He says: I don't see her kneecap and that is serious matter. Do you think she needs surgery? I know that patella luxation requires surgery to fix the issue but don't know if kneecap is not exit, what we should do. All family members are concerned about prognosis of this health issue. Pleas share what you think. Thanks - Mohammad

May 7, 2018

CoCo's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The absence of kneecaps is a rare congenital condition and I would highly recommend visiting an Orthopaedic Specialist for advice on this since this is a very rare condition. In the meantime try to restrict movement and keep CoCo comfortable. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 7, 2018

Afternoon, My dogs has not stepped onto his back left leg in the past 2 days..and it is causing a lot of discomfort. He is a Pomeranian, and in previous vet visits they said he has knee problems. Should I wait a few more days or take him to the vet immediately?

Sept. 17, 2018

Tyler W.


We met surgeon yesterday and he assessed CoCo and came to us with grade 4 patella luxation!!! She will need a surgery to return patella to her original location . Surgeon will deepen the groove and will fix soft tissues around patella. Next Thursday will be the surgery day with almost $3300 to 4000 cost. Pray for her...

May 10, 2018

CoCo's Owner


Appreciated Dr. Callum. We've got an appointment to see a surgeon this week and see what he will diagnose on CoCo. Most likely, Patellar Luxation grade 1 or 2...

May 7, 2018

CoCo's Owner

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Tito

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

10 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Kneecap Dislocation

Hi, I have a very cute and fluffy Chihuahua. I noticed that her back knees snaps out when she stands on her back-legs and or when we walk/run and she starts pulling on the leash with her back-legs. She does not show any signs of pain or discomfort. She carries on as usual. But i am so scared that she is actually in pain, but she does not show me? Could this be? Will i see if she is in pain? Is it normal that i notice something is not right with her back-legs, but she carries on as if everything is okay?

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fido

dog-breed-icon

Husky

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Limping, Knee, Pain

I have a siberian Husky, that seems to be perfectly fine until 2 months ago (10 months of age). He began limping in his right leg, I will stretch it and i will feel something moving into place on his knee, eventually he began to also limp in his left leg. Same thing, but harder to put back in. When he was 3 months old he will grunt if i put my hands under his thighs. Didn't think much of it at the time, other than he maybe didn't want to be bother. I took him to the vet and the vet didn't find anything rare on his knees. They did an xray and really nothing was found ( Both patellas are slightly displaced laterally in the extended VD projections, likely because external rotation of the stifle joints in these views. No evidence of degenerative change or joint capsule thickening/effusion is seen in either stifle. The physes still visible in this young dog appear normal. No focally increased medullary opacity is seen in any of the long bones. Both tarsi appear normal in the lateral projection). However, based on the symptoms the vet said he has patella. Called the breeder and he said the dog probably got an injury because how come his vet, and my vet failed to identify patella in his first 10 months of life.? He is telling me that is not hereditary, but again, the vet said his knees are tight, and the xray doesnt show anything. Any ideas maybe something else that can be causing him pain. I did feel something moving making a "clank" sound from the inside of his leg towards the knee. He also has a visual little arched back.

dog-name-icon

Pepper

dog-breed-icon

Cavachon

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Pepper tried to run up the stairs but yelped and jumped back down. She was holding her back leg up and yelping loudly. We took her the vets who said she had dislocated her knee but had managed to pop it back in herself. They prescribed her medicine for 3 days, this medication ran out yesterday. Pepper is putting wait on her leg and seems to walk ok but at times she will still give a little yelp and hold her leg up for a few seconds. She is a little anxious about going out for the toilet. Do you think I need to take her back to the vets?

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MOBY

dog-breed-icon

Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

She Refuse To Walk

Mydog had a kneecap operation and refuse to stand up totaly :( My dog had 2 surgerys one after another this is post op 3 weeks now but she refuses to walk even she doesnt stand up on her feet. I'm really worried she is able to walk again. My vet says he has never seen a case like this before. Please give us advice İs she able to walk again and when?

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Newo

dog-breed-icon

Mini Aussie

dog-age-icon

Two Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain

I have a 2-year-old mini Aussie rescue. She yipped going down the steps about 5 days ago and then wouldn't use her back left leg at all and was obvious in discomfort. I took her to the vet who popped her knee back into place but said she'd likely need surgery. This is the first time this has happened. A day later she will still not move or is very, very timid about putting weight on her leg. I have felt the knee, and it doesn't feel out of joint. I would like to avoid surgery ($$) and am wondering how long she might be in discomfort due to the previous dislocation or just fear of using it -- and when I need to be concerned that she just isn't getting better. She is on some pain meds and is eating ok.

Kneecap Dislocation Average Cost

From 27 quotes ranging from $800 - $5,000

Average Cost

$3,000