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Should You Walk a Dog With Luxating Patella?

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Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Walking a dog with a luxating patella can be a difficult task.

The condition, which occurs when the knee cap slips out of place due to muscular or ligament weakness, requires careful management and regular evaluation by an experienced veterinarian in order to keep your pet healthy and safe.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the considerations you should make before choosing to walk a dog with a luxating patella, as well as the safety measures you should take if you choose to do so.

Key Takeaway

  • A Luxating Patella in dogs is a condition where the kneecap ‘pops out’ or moves out of its normal location, leading to lameness and other symptoms.
  • You should walk a dog with a luxating patella, as moderate exercise can be beneficial, but it’s important to avoid strenuous activities that can exacerbate the condition.
  • A dog with a luxating patella should be walked for short durations of about 15 to 20 minutes, multiple times a day, but the frequency and duration can vary based on the severity of the condition and the dog’s overall health.

What Is a Luxating Patella In Dogs?

A luxating patella in dogs is a condition where the kneecap (patella) moves out of its normal position, which can cause pain and mobility issues.

Luxating patella, also known as “trick knee,” is quite common in small dogs. It happens when the dog’s kneecap, or patella, dislocates or moves out of its normal location.

The patella is a small bone located in front of the knee joint where the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bones (tibia and fibula) meet.

When functioning normally, the patella slides up and down in its groove (trochlear groove) as the leg bends and straightens.

However, in some dogs, due to genetic factors, trauma, or other causes, the groove may be too shallow or the ligaments that hold the patella in place may be weak.

As a result, the patella can slip out of its groove, usually to the inside (medial) but sometimes to the outside (lateral) of the leg.

This condition can be painful for the dog and can lead to lameness or an abnormal gait.

Treatment options may range from pain management with medications to surgical correction.

Should You Walk a Dog With Luxating Patella?

Should You Walk a Dog With Luxating Patella

Yes, you can walk a dog with a luxating patella, but the intensity and duration of the walks should be adjusted based on the severity of your dog’s condition and according to your vet’s advice.

Luxating patella in dogs is a joint issue that can affect their mobility, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they must avoid all physical activities.

In fact, moderate exercise can be beneficial for maintaining joint flexibility and muscle strength, which could potentially help keep the kneecap in place.

However, the key is to ensure that the exercise is not too strenuous or lengthy, as overdoing it could exacerbate the condition, causing more pain and discomfort.

It’s also important to watch out for signs of discomfort or pain during the walk. These include limping, reluctance to move, or excessive panting.

How Long Should You Walk a Dog With Luxating Patella

A dog with a luxating patella should be walked for short, gentle periods, typically around 10 minutes at a time, but the exact duration depends on the severity of the condition and the dog’s comfort level.

Walking a dog with a luxating patella is not only possible but also beneficial as it helps maintain muscle strength and joint flexibility.

However, the intensity and length of these walks should be carefully moderated.

Typically, around 10 minutes of gentle exercise is recommended before any more strenuous activity, like running.

The comfort level of your pet should always guide the pace and distance of the walk. If signs of discomfort or pain are displayed, such as limping, reluctance to move, or excessive panting, the walk should be cut short.

How Often Should You Walk a Dog With Luxating Patella

A dog with a luxating patella should ideally be walked two to three times daily, beginning with 5 to 10-minute walks, and the duration can be adjusted based on the dog’s comfort and tolerance.

Walking a dog with a luxating patella is indeed beneficial as it helps maintain muscle strength and joint flexibility.

However, the frequency and duration of these walks should be carefully moderated.

It’s typically recommended for dogs with this condition to have short, gentle walks two or three times a day, each lasting initially for about 5 to 10 minutes.

This routine not only aids in maintaining their physical health but also helps in managing their energy levels.

Should You Exercise a Dog With Luxating Patella?

Yes, you should exercise a dog with a luxating patella, but it should be gentle and low-impact exercise tailored to the dog’s specific condition and tolerance levels.

The type, intensity, and duration of exercise should be carefully moderated to avoid exacerbating the condition.

Gentle, low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming, are typically recommended as they put less strain on the joints.

Similarly, the exercise duration should start with short periods and can gradually increase based on the dog’s comfort and tolerance.

Avoid any strenuous activities like running or jumping that could potentially worsen the condition says VCA Hospitals.

What Makes Luxating Patella Worse In Dogs?

  • Overweight/Obesity: Extra weight puts added pressure on the joints, potentially making the symptoms of luxating patella worse.
  • High-Impact Activities: Activities such as running, jumping, or rough play can put excessive strain on the joint, exacerbating the condition.
  • Inadequate Exercise: While high-impact activities can worsen the condition, a lack of exercise can also be detrimental as it can lead to muscle weakness, reducing support for the joint.
  • Aging: As dogs age, the condition can naturally worsen due to the general wear and tear on the joints.
  • Trauma: Any form of trauma or injury to the leg can potentially worsen a luxating patella.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Certain breeds are more susceptible to this condition, and in such cases, it may progressively get worse over time.

Precautions and Safety Tips For Walking a Dog With Luxating Patella

When walking a dog with a luxating patella, it’s crucial to ensure the activity is gentle and controlled to prevent exacerbating the condition.

Monitor the Pace

Maintain a slow to moderate pace during walks. Fast or strenuous walks can put too much pressure on your dog’s knee joint and worsen the condition. The aim should be to provide enough exercise to keep the muscles strong and joints flexible without causing discomfort or pain.

Avoid High-Impact Activities

Avoid letting your dog jump or run excessively during walks. These high-impact activities can cause the kneecap to dislocate more frequently. Instead, focus on low-impact activities like gentle walking or swimming.

Use Supportive Gear

Consider using supportive gear such as a harness instead of a collar. A harness provides more control during walks and puts less strain on the neck and joints. There are also supportive braces designed specifically for dogs with joint issues that can provide extra support.

Keep Your Dog Lean

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is crucial. Overweight dogs have more strain on their joints, which can make luxating patella symptoms worse. Regular, gentle exercise combined with a balanced diet can help maintain an ideal weight.

Watch for Signs of Discomfort

Always monitor your dog for signs of discomfort during and after walks. If your dog starts limping, panting excessively, or showing signs of pain, stop the exercise immediately and give them time to rest. It may also be necessary to consult with your vet if these signs persist.

Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups are essential for monitoring the progress of the condition and making necessary adjustments to the exercise regimen. The vet can provide specific guidance based on your dog’s condition, breed, age, and overall health status.

What Are The Different Grades of Luxating Patella?

GradeDescription
Grade 1The kneecap can be manually luxated but returns to its normal position when released. The dog shows no obvious signs of discomfort.
Grade 2The kneecap can spontaneously luxate out of position with minimal force. The dog may occasionally limp or show other signs of discomfort.
Grade 3The kneecap remains luxated most of the time but can be manually repositioned. However, it will quickly luxate again. The dog often exhibits noticeable lameness.
Grade 4The kneecap is permanently luxated and cannot be manually repositioned. This grade is typically associated with significant discomfort and constant lameness.

Causes of Luxating Patella in Dogs

Luxating Patella in dogs is primarily caused by genetic factors and structural abnormalities, though it can also occur as a result of trauma.

Genetic Factors

Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in the occurrence of Luxating Patella in dogs. Certain breeds, particularly smaller ones, are more prone to this condition due to their genetic makeup. This predisposition might manifest in structural abnormalities like being bowlegged, which can contribute to the patella luxating.

Structural Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities of the joint or limb can lead to Luxating Patella. For instance, if the point of attachment of the patellar ligament is not in the center, it may cause the patella to luxate. In some dogs, it’s their unusual knee anatomy that makes them susceptible to this condition.

Trauma

While less common than genetic and structural causes, trauma can also cause Luxating Patella in dogs. An injury to the knee can result in sudden severe lameness of the limb due to the patella becoming dislocated. This is typically seen in cases where the dog has suffered a significant impact on the leg.

Signs and Symptoms of Luxating Patella

The signs and symptoms of a luxating patella in dogs can vary, typically involving abnormal gait, lameness, and visible discomfort.

Abnormal Gait

One of the most common signs of a luxating patella is an abnormal gait. Dogs with this condition may exhibit a ‘skipping’ or ‘hopping’ movement, where they momentarily lift the affected leg off the ground while walking or running.

Lameness

Intermittent lameness, or sudden limping, is another common symptom. The dog may suddenly lift the affected leg off the ground and carry it for a while before putting it back down. In severe cases, the dog may not be able to use the affected leg at all.

Visible Discomfort

Dogs with a luxating patella may show visible signs of discomfort or pain, especially after physical activity. They might show reluctance to jump or run, or they may have difficulty standing up or climbing stairs.

Swelling and Inflammation

In some cases, the affected knee joint may become swollen or inflamed. This is more common in severe cases or when the condition has been present for a long time without treatment.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes can also indicate a luxating patella. Dogs may become less active or playful due to discomfort or pain. They may also show signs of irritability or aggression when the affected area is touched or manipulated.

FAQs

Q: How is a luxating patella diagnosed?

A: A luxating patella in dogs can be diagnosed through a physical examination by a veterinarian and sometimes confirmed with imaging techniques such as X-rays.

Q: Does a dog with a luxating patella always require surgery?

A: The need for surgery in a dog with a luxating patella depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be managed with non-surgical treatments, while severe cases often require surgical intervention.

Q: Can a luxating patella in dogs be treated without surgery?

A: In some cases, a luxating patella in dogs can be managed without surgery through options like physical therapy, weight management, and joint supplements.

Q: How can walking a dog with a luxating patella help?

A: Walking a dog with a luxating patella can help strengthen the muscles around the joint, improve range of motion, and promote overall joint health.

Q: Can all dog breeds be affected by a luxating patella?

A: Luxating patella can occur in dogs of any breed, but certain small-breed dogs are more prone to this condition.

Q: What are the signs of a luxating patella in dogs?

A: Signs of a luxating patella in dogs may include limping, skipping, or hopping on the affected leg, difficulty extending the leg, and pain or discomfort.

Q: How successful is luxating patella surgery in dogs?

A: Luxating patella surgery in dogs has a high success rate, with most dogs experiencing an improvement in their mobility and comfort after the procedure.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Walking a dog with a luxating patella can be beneficial as long as it is done with caution.

The best way to determine if it’s safe for your dog is to consult with your veterinarian.

If you are able to provide proper care and safety measures for your pet, then regular walks can help keep the luxating patella from getting worse.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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