Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Written by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

Dr Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years experience in companion animal practice. In 1987 she graduated from the University of Glasgow, with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. A love of the sea meant accepting her first job in the port town of Portsmouth, England. A fter working in private practice for two years, her next position was as a vet at the People’...

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Reviewed by Dr. Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS
Veterinarian Dr. Pippa Elliott BVMS, MRCVS

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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Patella luxation in dogs is a very common muscular disease that affects the dog’s kneecaps or patella.

A dog’s kneecap fits right into the femur bone, and when a dog walks or moves, the kneecap will slide up and down.

When a dog has a luxating patella, this means that the kneecap has become dislocated and doesn’t slide freely in the femur.

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There Are Two Types Of A Luxating Patella

  • Medial – When the patella is sliding on the inner part of the knee (most common)
  • Lateral – When the patella is sliding on the outer part of the knee

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Canine Knee Side View

4 Grades Of Patella Dislocation

Your veterinarian will be able to determine the severity of the patella injury through X-rays:

Grade 1

The patella will slide out at times but then can pop back in spontaneously. There is little pain.

Grade 2

The patella tends to slide out occasionally but can be put back into the correct position manually and your dog can feel this grade.

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance

Grade 3

The patella is out of place most of the time but can be manually put back into the correct position but your dog will be in pain.

Grade 4

The patella is permanently out of place and can’t be put back into the correct position.

Your dog might even look bow-legged and is constantly in pain.

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Common Symptoms Of Patella Luxation

  • A popping sound in the dog’s kneecap
  • Abnormal walking or limping
  • Avoidance of using the affected leg
  • Constant Pain

Breeds More Susceptible To luxating Patella

Typically luxating Patella is an issue in smaller breeds such as:

Larger Breeds With Possible Patella Luxation Injuries:

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What Causes Knee Dislocation

There are a few reasons why dogs will have luxating patella issues:

Pre-Disposed Genetics

Some skeletal deformities that are present and birth (congenital) can cause luxating patellas and the most common of these pre-existing conditions is when the quadriceps muscles are out of alignment or the femur is not set in place properly.

Poor Nutrition

Dogs who are not fed well and/or are overweight are more prone to developing knee and joint problems due to the excess weight.

Surgical Treatment For Luxating Patellas

There are different forms of treatment for luxating patellas depending on the severity of the patella injury.

For the more severe or grade 3 or 4 patella issues, surgery is the most common treatment.

There are typically 3 different surgeries performed depending on where the abnormality has occurred:

#1 – Trochlear Groove Needs To Be Deepened

The groove where the patella is located needs to be deepened so it can hold the patella.

This is usually done with a trochlear wedge or blocking the trochlear.

#2 – Quadriceps Realignment surgery

The purpose is to realign and move the tibial crest towards the bone to reposition the patella so that it is properly aligned within the trochlear groove.

Pins are typically used to secure the bone.

#3 – Femur Corrective surgery

The patella and the surrounding areas that are misaligned causes the femur to twist. The femur needs to be properly aligned.

Patellar Luxation Treatment Without Surgery

If your dog has grade 1 or 2 patella luxation, surgery may not be required.

The most common treatment for luxating patellas that is non- surgical are:

Knee Braces

Dog knee braces can help keep the patella in place and help minimize your dogs’ pain.


Many vets recommend supplements that help bone growth and are usually antioxidants and glucosamine.

Patella Massage

By massaging the dog’s knee joint, you can help the patella move back to the correct position.

Your vet can give you tips on how to massage the patella which can help mobility and ease the pain.

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What Is The Cost Of Luxating Patella Surgery?

When considering the cost of luxating patella surgery, it is not only the surgery that costs money but also the post-operation care.

Rehab, more vet visit follow-ups, prescription medication, and even physiotherapy will factor into the price.

The cost will typically range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the type of surgery required and other factors such as where you live or the grade of the patella issue.

Also, the prescription medications that are needed can add up too and could be as much $40 a month.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Luxating Patella?

Yes, but you need to insure your dog while he or she is young and before any patella issues occur.

If you have a breed that is prone to luxating patella issues, pet insurance will help offset the costs of any surgery or issues that might occur later in life.

Pet insurance can save you up to 90% of each bill and can help reduce the monthly price of prescriptions.

And the best insurance companies, like Healthy Paws, even include alternative treatments like hydrotherapy that can help with the costs of post-op treatment.

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Complications With Luxating Patella Surgery

As with any surgery, there is always the risk of complications. Infection is typically the most common complication.

And, of course, the more advanced the surgery, the higher the chance that the knee could re-luxate and then need a second surgery might be needed.

It’s important to watch your dog and limit his or her activity after surgery for a successful recovery.

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Recovery For A Dislocated Kneecap

Dog Swimming "Hydrotherapy is the best!"

With proper care and exercise, dogs can generally recover within 6 to 8 weeks and begin normal exercise.

Some tips to help for a successful recovery:

  • Avoid Exercise and Activity – your dog needs time to recover and keep walking to a minimum.
  • Hydrotherapy – By letting your dog swim and exercise in the water, it enables your dog to exercise without pressure on the joints.
  • Diet – Make sure your dog has a good high-quality diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals.

How To Mitigate Patella Luxation In Dogs

There really is no way to avoid patella luxation in dogs, particularly for those dogs that are prone to it.

Of course, if you have a breed that is susceptible to patella luxation, make sure to keep your dog at a healthy weight and keep up with a healthy diet.

And make sure to consider pet insurance to save costs now and later in your dog’s life!

Dogs can live a long happy, life even with patella luxation and the condition has a 90% success rate of being and remaining treatable.

For more information on common Dog Health Problems such as arthritis, cherry eye, and many more.


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We get it, your dog is like your child and when your puppy or dog has health problems it is scary. Luckily there is pet insurance companies that will help you pay for any veterinarian care they made need. Checkout the best puppy and dog pet insurance companies and learn about common puppy health issues and ailments in older pets


Common Health Problems:

Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs

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Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

Arthritis In Dogs

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Cataracts In Dogs

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Collie Eye Anomaly In Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Tear in Dogs

Cryptorchidism in Dogs

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy | Spinal Cord Disease In Dogs

Dementia in Dogs | Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Demodicosis In Dogs

Dental Problems in Dogs

Diabetes In Dogs

Dog Comedones (Schnauzer Bumps)

Dog Diarrhea: What Can You Do To Help?

Dog Ear Infections

Dystocia in Dogs

Ectropion in Dogs

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Entropion In Dogs

Eye Problems in Dogs

Fleas in Dogs

Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs

Gallstones in Dogs

Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Glaucoma in Dogs

Heart Murmurs In Dogs | How To Identify Them

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hot Spots On Dogs

Hyperparathyroidism In Dogs

Hypothyroidism In Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs

Nasal Solar Dermatitis In Dogs

Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Progressive Retinal Atrophy In Dogs

Renal Failure in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs

Wobbler Syndrome In Dogs

The Dog Flu – Symptoms & Treatment for Canine Influenza

Dog Biting Nails