Trick Knees in Dogs: Not a Trick You Want Your Dog to Learn

Have you adopted your first pet ever? Learn more about the basic care and necessary veterinarian services your pet will require.

Trick Knees in Dogs: Not a Trick You Want Your Dog to Learn

29 March 2022
 Categories: , Blog

Does your dog know any tricks? Even if you haven't taught them any, their knees might know some. Luxating patella (informally known as a trick knee) is a condition that a fair number of dogs may experience, although smaller (toy) dogs are often more susceptible. The so-called trick isn't that impressive. Essentially, the patella (kneecap) moves out of its standard position (known as luxation). How would you know if your dog has a luxating patella? And if so, what needs to be done about it?

The Anatomy of Your Dog's Knee

The knee is covered by the patellar ligament. When the muscles in your dog's legs contract, the patellar ligament stretches accordingly, while keeping the kneecap in position. It's when it pops out of this position that it has luxated. This can be a fleeting problem, as the patella will quickly move back into the correct position. However, as time goes by, the luxation might become more regular, and can even become permanent.

Hard to Spot

Luxating patella can be hard to spot, as the signs are quite subtle. Your dog will have difficulty putting weight on the affected leg, but this can seem to instantaneously resolve itself as the patella realigns. Your dog is unlikely to show any signs of distress, as the issue tends to be slightly uncomfortable, as opposed to being painful. This can change as time goes by, so if your dog repeatedly (if only briefly) has difficulty applying weight to one of their limbs, they'll need to have that knee x-rayed.

Supplements and Therapy

An x-ray allows your vet to assess the degree of luxation in the kneecap. This lets them formulate a treatment plan. In some cases, not much actually needs to be done. You may need to regulate your dog's physical activity (so the affected joint doesn't become overexerted). The problematic ligament can be strengthened with medical supplements (typically glucosamine), and physical therapy (such as canine hydrotherapy) can be beneficial. However, luxating patella may lead to further problems with the surrounding ligaments, which can become quite painful for your dog. If your dog should develop arthritis, then luxating patella can be a serious complication. 

Corrective Surgery

When more intensive intervention is needed, your dog can receive corrective surgery. This is known as a sulcoplasty, as your vet will be working on your dog's trochlear sulcus. A sulcus is a groove in a bone (and in your dog's case, their femur). By slightly deepening the trochlear sulcus, the patella and its associated ligaments should be returned to their normal range of motion. 

Luxating patella has many different degrees of severity, and some dogs can live quite comfortably with the condition. However, in the event that it should worsen and cause physical discomfort, then multiple treatment options exist.

For more information, contact a vet near you.

About Me
Critical Veterinary Care for Your Fluffy Family Members

I recently adopted my first dog and learned how much I care for this creature. While the relationship is different than any I have ever had with a human, I can't say I love my dog any less. In fact, in many ways, I love my dog more than I have ever loved anyone before. As a result, I take his veterinary care very seriously. I have spent months researching veterinary care for both dogs and cats, and I want to share that info here in case you need help with your furry family members. Please, get comfortable, have your fluffy little one curl up in your lap and start exploring. I hope these posts help you keep your dog or cat safe and healthy.