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Patella luxation

What is patella luxation?


A luxating patella means that the kneecap (or patella) is moving or dislocating from its normal position within the knee. This can be caused by abnormalities in the ligaments and muscle surrounding the kneecap, that may be inherited or caused by trauma. 

It is very common in dogs, especially small dogs. Sometimes, laxity or movement in of the patella indicating luxating patella might be discovered during a routine examination. These dogs may not yet be showing any symptoms. In other cases, pain and mobility concerns may be the first signs that your pet has a problem with luxating patellae.

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Which pets are most affected?

Many toy and small dog breeds have a genetic predisposition to patella luxation. This is often because of their characteristic “bowlegs” which results in abnormalities in the knees. However, patella luxation can occur in any sized breed in both dogs and cats of any age.

According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), luxating patella is most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Breed 

Prevalence*

Papillon

3.32%

Pomeranian

3.28%

Maltese

2.79%

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

2.57%

Chihuahua

2.50%

Boston Terrier

2.37%

Toy Poodle

2.26%

Bichon Frise

2.22%

Havanese

2.06%

Japanese Spitz

1.94%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of patella luxation

The main signs of patella luxation including “hopping” or skipping-like lameness to the back leg that will spontaneously resolve as the dislocation resolves. This can be accompanied by yelping in some dogs due to pain. In severe instances, pets may show consistent lameness and signs like shaking or extending the affected leg. 

Diagnosing patella luxation

The first stage of diagnosing patella luxation will involve the Vet taking a clinical history. This means finding out if there has been any history of accidents, limping or other signs at home that could indicate that there is a problem. A thorough exam of the pet patient will also be performed.  

An important part of this clinical examination by the veterinarian is checking the stability of the kneecap by feeling and manipulating the knee to feel for abnormal movement. Some tests may need to be performed under sedation or anaesthetic. X-rays or a CT scan may be recommended to visualise the surrounding bones of the hind legs and check for other problems such as hip dysplasia or cruciate ligament disease.

Management of patella luxation 

Management of patella luxation is dependent on the severity of the luxation. In very mild cases, there may be no symptoms. In these cases, the vet may recommend that the knees are checked during routine appointments such as for vaccinations for signs that the problem is worsening or that the pet is in any pain. Remember that lameness is an indication of pain, so pain relief, including Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and chondroprotectants (medications that help protect cartilage) may be indicated. 

Severe Patella Luxation often requires surgical correction. In some instances, a kneecap implant is inserted. Post-operative management includes cage rest and pain relief. 

Pets with patella luxation can be predisposed to other leg and knee diseases, such as cruciate ligament disease, hip pain, and arthritis in the knee joint as the pet ages which may require ongoing management.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to Patella Luxation was $525 with the highest, single claim being $6,975. The overall treatment cost of managing Patella Luxation will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to these treatments.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

Petinsurance.com.au is general insurance issued by the insurer The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) (Hollard); is promoted and distributed by Pet Insurance Pty Ltd (ABN 38 607 160 930; AR 1234944) (PIPL) and PIPL’s authorised distribution partners (including Pet Culture Group Pty Limited ABN: 69 644 613 098; AR 001284860) (PetCulture) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) (PetSure). PIPL and PetCulture are authorised representatives of PetSure. Any advice provided is general only, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the product disclosure statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold, Petinsurance.com.au Pet Insurance.

Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Noah
Noah
Bei Bei
Bei Bei
Meeka
Meeka