The dog’s knee joint is a complex mechanism that permits four-legged movement. It consists of the femur, the uppermost leg bone, which fits into a large groove in the pelvis called the hip socket; and the lower end of the tibia which forms a groove in which to run. Between these two grooves is located a sesamoid bone or kneecap.
The kneecap serves as an additional guide for the thigh bone but also acts as a shock absorber when running and jumping. The knee cap slides over this track with every step a dog takes. In a luxating patella condition, this sliding motion becomes exaggerated enough to cause pain and distress as the kneecap pops out of position and travels to the inside or outside part of the knee.
The luxating patella condition is either genetic (passed on by parents) or congenital (present at birth). Breeds that are most often affected include Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Maltese, Beagles, Bichon Frise, and Cocker Spaniels. Luxating patellas can be diagnosed through clinical signs such as a stilted gait with the rear legs held outward from the body when walking around.
In addition, there will be a “clunking” sound felt within the joint during movement. Luxating patellas can also be diagnosed through X-ray imaging which will show the kneecap out of alignment with the groove it runs in.
The surgical correction involves the removal of part or all of the Patella, to prevent future slippage. The surgery is usually considered for pets that are 6 months old and older. Younger dogs may have stronger bones that are better able to hold up against further stress caused by surgery.
It is especially important to seek veterinary care for your pet if you notice pain, stiffness, or swelling around the knee area, weakness when walking, or reluctance to move, limping, or favoring one leg more than another. Surgery tends to be very successful in most cases but some dogs may experience failure of surgery, usually due to more damage being done during surgery than was originally diagnosed.
The price for this surgery is quite variable, but one can expect an average range of $400-800 for pet owners with knee surgery prices averaging about $500. Discounts are often available for senior citizens and military personnel, as well as those who need their pets spayed or neutered at the same time.
Does Pet Insurance Cover luxating patella surgery?
Insurance policies for this type of pet surgery can vary greatly. Some will cover all or part of the cost while others might not apply at all. Pets Best is a pet insurance provider with quite a few options in terms of covering both pre-existing conditions and non-routine procedures such as knee surgery, with up to 90% reimbursement coverage on knee surgeries.
Can a dog live with luxating patella?
Yes. Dogs can live a long and happy life with a condition known as a luxating patella, even without surgery. If the animal is not in pain or discomfort from the kneecap being out of place then typically no treatment is required. In cases where an affected dog does become lame from knee joint problems, surgery may help.
There’s no pain, but is the animal crippled or deformed? What kind of life does it lead? Many vets would say that none at all. Animals without surgery will live in pain and discomfort; they are often inactive, overweight, have to walk on their hocks because the knees hurt so much when bearing weight, arthritis sets in very early and the knees and hocks wear out and cause pain at an early age.
With surgery, however, they can live a normal life. Some dogs even go through training to become assistance dogs for the disabled because their knee problem does not affect them during obedience or agility training. Owners whose pets have had this surgery report that their dogs run, jump, dig, romp and play just like any other dog.
Is luxating patella considered a pre-existing condition?
Can a luxating patella correct itself?