Does Your Dog Need Surgery For A Luxating Patella?


The patella, or kneecap, sits over your dog's stifle, or knee joint. Sometimes, dogs are born with what's known as luxating patella. This means the patella moves out of its groove and out of place. Older dogs can also end up with a luxating patella after a traumatic injury. Owners often assume that if their dog has a luxating patella, that means they need surgery. However, this is not always the case. Here's a more in-depth look at how vets determine whether patella surgery is necessary, along with some details as to what that surgery would involve.

When Surgical Repair Is Needed for a Luxating Patella

A veterinary surgeon should be able to determine, in a single consultation, whether surgery is necessary for your dog. They will talk to you about your dog's symptoms and take x-rays or an MRI to see what's happening inside of the joint. 

If your dog is not in any pain, surgery is not usually necessary. If they do sometimes limp, then your vet may want to do surgery now, before symptoms get worse.

The vet will also consider the behavior of the patella. If it moves back in place on its own, then the condition is not severe enough to warrant surgery. If it needs to be manipulated back into place manually, or if it cannot be moved back into place, then surgery is usually needed.

What Patellar Luxation Surgery Involves

If your dog does need patellar luxation surgery, it will usually be performed by a veterinary surgical specialist — likely one with experience in orthopedic care. The exact surgical protocol will depend on the nature and condition of the tissue around your dog's patella. Some common surgical approaches include:

  • Widening the groove that the patella sits in so that it slides more easily
  • Loosening the ligament that connects the patella to your dog's tibia
  • Removing scar tissue in the muscle surrounding the knee

Regardless of which approach is taken, your dog will be put under general anesthesia for this procedure. They'll likely need to stay in the animal hospital for a day or two before you take them home. They'll be in a cast for at least a few weeks as they heal, and then they can gradually begin resuming physical activity.

Not all luxating patellas need surgical treatment, but ones that cause your dog pain or are hard to move back in place usually do. Talk to your vet to learn more about veterinary surgical services.


2 April 2021

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