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Luxating Patellas

My Atchin' Knees!

A Luxating or Dislocating Patella is where the kneecap doesn't sit on the front of the knee joint properly. It can be caused by poor alignment of the leg, or where the groove the knee cap sits in is too shallow.

How Did It Happen?

Most likely it has been present from birth and has worsened with the way your dog's bones have grown. It's not an injury that will heal with time, and usually worsens with age.

Clinical Signs

Luxating Patellas are often graded from 1 to 4 depending on how severe they are. Many dogs only show symptoms while running: they'll run well for a short period, then suddenly hop along on three legs while holding the affected hind leg in the air. Sometimes if they stop and extend the leg, this can temporarily ‘fix' the knee.

A Luxating Patella is a functional problem (i.e. your dog can still use the leg most of the time) rather than a pain-related condition, except when the kneecap dislocates, which hurts a lot.


Surgery is usually recommended if your dog is regularly lame. Discuss with your veterinarian whether your dog requires surgery. Alternatively, consider seeking a referral to a surgical specialist for their opinion.

Additional Information

Veterinary Partner
The Pet Health Library: Medial Luxating Patella
Dr. Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, Dip ABVP

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