Have you noticed your Chihuahua limping or holding one of their legs up when they walk? They could have a condition known as Patella Luxation. In laymen’s terms, it is a floating kneecap. It can progressively get worse as time goes by so it is something your veterinarian should check out.
The patella, or kneecap, is a small bone, which normally sits in the tendon of the extensor muscles (the quadriceps muscles) of the thigh. The patella normally lies in a groove within the thighbone in the knee.
Patellar luxation or dislocation is a condition where the kneecap moves outside the femoral groove. It is one of the most common knee joint abnormalities in dogs. Patellar luxation is most common in Chihuahuas, as well as, in other toy and miniature dog breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Pekingese, and Boston Terriers.
Here is a great video that explains it all very well:
Patellar luxation can occur after a traumatic injury to the knee or as a result of a genetic malformation of the stifle joint. Traumatic luxation is the result of disruption of soft tissues and forceful dislocation of the patella. Your Chihuahua will have a very difficult time walking on the leg as the condition is very painful.
If corrected early, your dog could have a good prognosis. Congenital or developmental patellar luxation can be associated with varying degrees of deformities of the hip and stifle joint, as well as the tight and leg bones.
The signs of patella luxation will vary depending on the severity of the condition and on the presence of concurrent degenerative arthritis. Your Chihuahua may exhibit some of the following signs:
• Prolonged abnormal hind limb movement
• Occasional skipping
• Hind limb lameness
• Sudden lameness
• Holding up the hind limb
There are different grades of severity for this condition. It goes from Grade 1 to Grade 4. In grade 1, you may not even notice your dog has a problem. The higher the grade number, the more severe the condition is.
Your dog’s veterinarian may need to perform various tests including (ACVS):
• Palpation of the knee awake or under sedation.
• X-rays of the hind limb.
• Analysis of the synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates joints).
• Blood tests to administer medication or perform surgery.
Treatment and Management
You can do things to help your dog be more comfortable such as having stairs and ramps available for them. Vitamin and mineral supplements along with joint supplements can sometimes help too.
Although some dogs can live their entire lives with this condition and never have it progress, many of the cases will eventually need surgical treatment, which may consist of fastening the kneecap on the outside of the bone to prevent it from sliding towards the inside or deepening the groove of the thighbone so that it can better hold the kneecap.
Chihuahuas who also have degenerative arthritis may also need medical treatment, which may include chondroprotectants such as chondroitin sulfate. After surgery, your dog will need frequent low-impact exercises such as walking. Kneecap dislocation is genetically inherited; therefore, the breeding of affected dogs is highly discouraged.
Has your Chihuahua been diagnosed with Patella Luxation? Or do you suspect they may have it? Leave a comment and let me know your experience with this condition.
Click to find about other chihuahua health problems.
American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Patellar Luxation. Retrieved on February 20, 2016 from: https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/patellar-luxations
Hettlich, B. (2014). Patellar Luxation. World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings. The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.
Monday 30th of January 2023
I just came from the vet today and was told that BabyBear has this Luxating Patella and will need to see an Orthopedic. She is overweight, 11 lbs and is 9 yrs old. My deep concern is to afford the surgery which is not what I have. Is she going to have to be put to sleep? I have not been given anything. Her vet is Jody Akers of Mansfield ohio.
Sunday 5th of February 2023
Is your dog having problems and is in pain? Many dogs live with this condition many years before needing surgery. Both my yorkies were born with it but get around fine. And if you can get her weight down, that may keep surgery at bay for years.
Wednesday 17th of August 2022
My pomchi just had a visit to the vet today because I felt a hard lump by her knee cap. She's had it a few weeks before and it went away but I noticed it again yesterday. The vet took a sample of the fluid and I'm hoping it's nothing serious. She's in great spirits and runs around like crazy, no skipping or limping. Is this a common thing for chihuahuas?
Thursday 18th of August 2022
Lumps are not normal for chihuahuas but I have heard from a few others. Sometimes it's a cancerous tumor and sometimes just a cyst. My terri-poo had one of these and it turned out to be cancer. They removed it though and he didn't need any other treatment. He was about 12 at the time and lived another 6 1/2 years. Keep us updated of what the vet finds out.
Wednesday 27th of April 2022
Hello from a former UA resident, long ago patient of OSU's George Paulson. I have adopted a 7 year old, tiny Chihuahua. This one, as previous 'mother' told me has developed a problem the last few years. Sadly she's had nothing done to help correct it. If possible. His front legs/paws turn under. He's hobbling only on his 'knees'. The position feels stiff/fixed. I've not had him to a vet. I live in an area with several. (But personally had two bad M.D. experiences, so very hesitant to trust any to be able to help.) Wish I could send photos.
Friday 29th of April 2022
Poor little guy! He definitely needs to see a vet and will probably need surgery.
Wednesday 21st of April 2021
My chihuahua just had patella Luxation surgery two weeks ago he is a year old took him to get his stitches out the checked him on how the surgery went they said it failed, and they are wanting to do more surgery on him, is this a good idea? What will happen if I decide not to have another surgery done ???? Thanks Fred Traceski
Wednesday 21st of April 2021
Wow Fred, that's really disheartening! I'm not a vet so I'm not sure what will happen to him if he doesn't get the second surgery. I think I would get a second opinion from another vet and see if what your options are.
Sunday 3rd of January 2021
How old should my chihuahua be before getting knee fixed one vet told me 6 months
Sunday 3rd of January 2021
Is your dog having issues with it now? Most vets wait til the dog gets older or is having problems with it. But I'm not a vet and do not know the specific issues with your pup. If it were me, I think I would get a second opinion before making the decision.