Is Your Dog Always Holding His Leg Up? Here's Probably The Reason Why

Is Your Dog Always Holding His Leg Up? Here's Probably The Reason Why

Floating kneecaps or luxating patellas is a painful condition typically a problem of small and tiny dogs.

Often, a dog with this condition appears to be fine. He will be seen actively playing and running. Then out of the blue, he becomes lame, crying out for help while holding his affected leg up. He can then put his leg back to the ground and be running and playing again like nothing happened.

You might wonder what happened. What happened is that his kneecap popped out of place, causing him to feel pain and hold his leg up. Then his kneecap returned to its original position, which is the reason he was able to put it down and play again.

A pretty straightforward description of what happens when a dog experienced this condition (floating kneecap or luxating patella), is when he suddenly went lame and started to hold his leg up, and just as suddenly, became well again like as if nothing happened.


What is Luxating Patella or Floating Kneecap?

The kneecap sits at the distal end of the femur. It helps the muscles flow across the joint between the thigh and lower leg so your dog can move easily.

The kneecap moves up and down. Patella ridges are the ones responsible for holding the kneecap in place. The kneecap can move up and down as nature intended as long as the ridges are deep. Unfortunately, some dog breeds have a very flat patella ridge. Their kneecap doesn't seat comfortably in the groove and it can pop out either laterally, to the outside or medially to the inside. The kneecap of larger dogs typically pops out laterally, while the kneecap of smaller dogs tends to pop to the inside. 


Dog Breeds That Are Prone To Luxating Patellas

Because of the genetic predisposition to luxating patellas, it commonly occurs to a variety of tiny and small dogs, such as: 

  • Maltese
  • Miniature and toy Poodles
  • Jack Russel Terriers
  • Pomeranians
  • Yorkies
  • Papillion
  • Pekingese
  • Chihuahuas
  • Boston Terriers


Severity of Luxating Patella 

There are four levels of severity of luxating patella. Level 1 is the mildest while Level 4 is the most severe.

  • Level 1 - The kneecap that popped out, popped right back in on its own.
  • Level 2 - The kneecap that popped out of its place didn't pop back in automatically. Sometimes it requires manual manipulation to return it to its proper place.
  • Level 3 - The kneecap sits outside the groove most of the time, however, it can be manually positioned back in the groove, where it stays temporarily.
  • Level 4 - This the worst-case scenario. The kneecap sits outside the groove all the time, and won't return back to its position when it is manually positioned back to its place.

These different levels of severity can cause intense pain for the dog that has this condition.


Diagnosis and Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed even the mildest level of a luxating patella, it is recommended that you address it right away.

No matter how mild, and especially in young dogs, luxating patella should be treated immediately to prevent future surgery and joint degeneration.

Here are some tips on how to treat luxating patella (mild levels):

  • Help your dog maintain a healthy body weight. The heavier he is, the more burden there will be on his knees.
  • Keep your dog moving. Maintaining an excellent muscle tone will help your dog keep the patella in place.
  • Provide your pet with a joint support supplementation that has glycosaminoglycans or commonly known as GAGs.
  • Discuss the supplement subject with your vet, as he or she will be able to provide the right supplements for your dog's kneecap problem.
  • Also, discuss about Adequan. It is an injectable joint support supplement that helps dogs that are developing premature arthritis.
  • Chiropractic and acupuncture treatments can also help dogs with luxating patellas.
  • In addition to your dog's daily exercise, feed him a species-appropriate diet. Give him foods that are under the anti-inflammatory category. An anti-inflammatory diet can significantly reduce the inflammation brought by luxating patellas.
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