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Patella Luxation In Chihuahuas

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Patella Luxation In ChihuahuasHave 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 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 rides 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 will need to perform various tests including (ACVS):

• Palpation of the knee under sedation
• X-rays of the hind limb
• Analysis of the synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates joints)
• Blood tests and urine analysis

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 analgesics and chondroprotectants such as chondroitin sulfate. After surgery your dog will need frequent low-impact exercises such 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.

Cathy signature Chi

American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Patellar Luxation. Retrieved on February 20, 2016 from:

Hettlich, B. (2014). Patellar Luxation. World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings. The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

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Sunday 9th of August 2020

We just adopted a seven year old girl, Lala last week. She seems to have this in both hind legs. We started her on the joint 'treats' that we currently give our eight year old pibble. We walk her two plus times daily along with our pibble, Charlie. Both in grass at parks and sidewalks in town. He has even slowed his walk to let her keep up. We are hoping that walks will help strengthen her muscles. It seems to be working in this short time. She does ok on the front stoop steps - there are two, but struggles with the back entry that has a step up. She watched our cat jump up, so now she she does a slight run and jump with a light slide on her landing. We will modify this with a ramp now that we read it could be a painful issue rather than just a coordination issue. Her prior owners never took her for walks. She just lounged in the yard or in the house.


Sunday 9th of August 2020

It sounds like you are doing all the right things Patty. What supplement are you giving her?


Saturday 18th of July 2020

I have a 7 year old chi and was just diagnosed with luxating patella in both knees, but is only limping on one side. They sent her home with pain meds and said if she is still limping in 7 days to meet with the surgeon and she will probably need surgery. I’m torn what to do cause some days she’s fine and other days she limps so much!


Saturday 18th of July 2020

Yeah that's a tough one Karla. Let us know how it turns out.

Elaine Simons

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

My 21 month old chi has a right leg luxating patella, currently at stage 1 - 2. She only runs with that leg lifted when she runs on grass. So far it doesn't appear to affect her walking. My vet has told us to watch it and consider surgery if it gets to stage 2 - 3, but in the meantime she is taking a daily joint supplement tablet, containing glucosamine and chrondroitin, to strengthen her joints and ligaments and hopefully avoid the problem progressing for as long as possible.


Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Do you think the supplement is helping her Elaine?

Sandra owens

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

My chi has it too and when we go on walks his back legs bow out. Does not seem to be in pain though. Then they can snap back. But wants to stop walking when knees are bowed out.

Esther Caldwell

Friday 2nd of August 2019

My fur-baby Precious had patella luxation in both rear legs and i had the surgery done on both her knees. it wasn't cheap. About 2500 for each leg and she still has pain because she also has arthritis in both legs. She will be 14 this December. the surgery was a success in both legs and was done when she was either 10 or 11 yrs old. she is about 12 pds and seems chunky for her size. if i see that she is in some pain from the arthritis i give her a half a pill of vetprofen and that seems to help. it is not easy but she is my baby and i would do anything for her. I had 4 Chi's, the momma the poppa and 2 daughters. i lost the momma in 2013 from airway disease and one of the daughters this March from cancer. the 2 i have left are the poppa and the other daughter and they are both senior dogs. i love them with all my <3. i have attached a pic of Precious who i call my black bear sometimes LOL


Friday 2nd of August 2019

You sound like a wonderful pet momma Esther! I haven't heard of vetprofen before. Is that something you have to get from the vet?