Going to the vet and having a suspected health issue confirmed is a moment dreaded by dog parents everywhere. If your dog has been diagnosed with a luxating patella, you no doubt have a host of questions and concerns. There’s your dog’s well-being and comfort to consider and on top of that, the cost of potential treatment or surgery.
Unfortunately, patella luxation surgery for dogs doesn’t come cheap. It can cost, on average, anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 per knee. This largely depends on many factors such as the severity of luxation, if one or both knees are affected, additional problems such as arthritis or other ligament damage, type of surgery needed and area of the country. Once you know that your dog needs patellar surgery contact your veterinary clinic for a detailed estimate of cost. The above price is a guideline only. The good news is that not every case of patella luxation requires surgery.
In this post, we aim to answer some of the most common questions related to patella luxation. We’ll share symptoms to watch out for and the treatment options available. We’ll also look at what your options might be if you can’t afford the cost of surgery.
What is a Luxating Patella in Dogs?
A luxating patella can be best described as a dislocated kneecap. It’s a common orthopedic condition and it occurs when the patella—also known as the kneecap—shifts out of its regular position in the groove of the femur bone. One or both knees can be affected and luxating patella degree is categorized into four grades.
A grade one luxating patella describes a kneecap that is usually in place but loose. If a vet dislocates a luxating patella at grade one, it should immediately go back into place. This is the least serious form of the condition and the least likely to require surgery. The most severe form is grade four. This describes a permanent condition in which the kneecap cannot be put back into place.
You’ll be glad to know that all four luxating patella grades can be treated. Treatment options include pain medication, physiotherapy, and surgery. Grades three and four are the forms that most often require surgery, though surgery is sometimes offered for the lower grades, especially if the dog is limping or otherwise in discomfort. Usually, grades one and sometimes two are treated with physiotherapy.
Symptoms of Patella Luxation
Dogs that appear to have an unusual skip in their step or are relying on one leg over another may be showing symptoms of patella luxation. Often your dog will be running along as normal and then suddenly carry one hind limb for a few steps before putting it back down again. Other symptoms include limping, swelling, and inflammation of the knee. The dog may only show symptoms intermittently and walk normally at other times.
What Causes a Luxating Patella in Dogs?
A luxating patella in dogs is often congenita, something they are born with. It is particularly common in dogs with a shallow groove on the femur where the kneecap sits. This makes it much easier for the kneecap to move out of place. Other causes or factors that may contribute to a luxating patella include:
Which Dog Breeds Are More Prone to a Luxating Patella?
Certain breeds are more predisposed to developing a luxating patella. Here are some of the dog breeds more prone than others to developing the condition:
While a luxating patella is more commonly linked to smaller dog breeds, it occasionally occurs in large dog breeds, too. Large breeds considered prone to developing the condition are Akitas, Great Pyrenees, Flat-coated Retrievers, and Shar Peis.
Can a Dog Live With Patella Luxation?
If patella luxation is treated appropriately by a vet, there’s no reason why a dog with the condition can’t go on to live a happy and comfortable life. Untreated patella luxation can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for your dog so it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible if you suspect your dog may have it.
Many dogs with patella luxation develop arthritis as they age, so this is also something to keep an eye on.
What If I Can’t Afford Patella Luxation Surgery?
If you don’t currently have a pet insurance plan in place, the best thing to do is to discuss the financial side of things with your vet. It’s okay to be upfront—vets are aware that financial situations are different for all of us and are used to discussing costs and options.
Your vet may also be able to recommend a different treatment option like rehabilitation or physiotherapy. As the condition is usually not an emergency you may have some time to save up for the surgery once you know the costs involved.
There’s no getting around the fact that treatment for patella luxation is often expensive due to the expertise and equipment needed to perform this surgery. This can understandably be very worrying. Talking to your vet about your concerns should always be your first course of action post-diagnosis.
Having a good insurance policy in place when you first get your beloved companion will really help with unexpected costs such as these.
On a more positive note, remember that patella luxation is a perfectly treatable condition. Proper treatment is another step towards many more fun, happy, and pain-free years with your best friend.