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Dislocating Kneecaps (Patella Luxation)

One of the very common problems small to medium dogs can have is a luxating patella. It means your dog has kneecaps that don’t sit in the correct place.

This is little Stella. She is a 5 kilo schnoodle. Stella had significant left knee pain when she was one year old. She was rested and given anti-inflammatory medication, but the pain kept returning. Stella was examined by out visiting surgeon Dr Eugene Buffa who recommended patella surgery.

Patella luxation is very common in dogs. Many small to medium dogs have a breed predilection. The patella groove may be too shallow, the leg bones may be bowed or ligaments weak.

The kneecap in the dog is a very tiny little bone somewhere between the size of a pea and a large kidney bean depending on the size of the dog. Humans have very straight knee joints but dogs knees are always bent. The kneecap (patella) glides up and down in the patella groove. It stabilises the whole knee along with the internal and external ligaments of the knee joint.

This model shows the patella in the strong patella ligament stabilising the front of the knee.

When you look inside the knee joint you can see the little patella bone and the groove it moves in. The internal knee has other stabilisers called the cruciate ligaments.

When you dog luxates the patella it moves out of the groove and can get stuck out of the groove. This will be very uncomfortable. Every week at Pittwater Animal Hospital we see a dog with luxating patellas or dislocating kneecaps. Some dogs can lead an almost normal life with kneecaps that luxate. But for other dogs, it causes ongoing pain and discomfort.

Stella had specialist surgery on her patella when she was one year old then the next year her right knee became painful and she had surgery on her right knee.

Both operations were covered by insurance and her owner only needed to pay the gap.

The operation involves relocating the lower placement of the patella ligament, deepening the groove and tightening the ligaments on the sides of the knees.

Now that Stella has recovered from her surgeries she runs around pain free and has no problems after playing a the dog park. Her owners are very pleased.


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