Oct 31, 2013 / 5:00 am
Taking your family pet to the vet is an ordeal most people are not too thrilled about, both because of the stress involved in some animals as well as the financial aspect. Pet owners frequently face the dilemma of whether the problem the pet is showing is worth taking it to the vet or not. The most confusing cases are the ones that appear intermittently (symptoms come and go). Many people are under the impression that if the pet has a serious problem, the symptoms will persist. In many cases this is true, however not in all of them.
An orthopedic condition known as Patellar luxation is a good example. Lately I encountered a few limping dogs that were diagnosed with Patellar luxation. Interestingly enough, in all of those cases, the owners noticed the limping long before they approached me for help. The sudden appearance and the disappearance of the limping made them doubt whether their dog actually had a real problem. The patella is the kneecap. It is situated between the two long bones of the back leg, the Femur and the Tibia. In normal leg anatomy the patella is situated in a special groove in the femur (the thigh bone), attached to the two long bones by tendons and muscle. The Patella location in the femur groove allows normal gliding motion in flexion and extension of the knee joint. Patellar luxation is a condition in which the patella jumps out of the groove sideways when the knee is bent. This causes the leg to “lock up” with the paw up in the air.
The condition has four grades of severity. In grade 1 the patella is normally in the femoral groove but can be manually manipulated outside of the groove. The 2nd and 3rd grades are the most common, in which the patella intermittently slides outside of the groove. In the most severe 4th grade the patella is permanently situated outside of the groove.
Patellar luxation is the most common congenital abnormality in dogs, affecting about 7% of puppies. Small breeds are most commonly affected especially Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Miniature Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers. The incidence in large breed dogs has been on the rise over the last 10 years.
Beside being a congenital abnormality, patellar luxation can also be caused in normal dogs as a result of a traumatic injury.
The most common sign associated with the condition is limping. The duration and the severity of the limping depends on the grade of the condition. The more severe the condition is, the more frequent the limping episodes are. In a typical patellar luxation case the limping will be intermittent (on again, off again) and will be resolved spontaneously, sometimes after only few minutes.
The diagnosis of the condition is done by a manual manipulation of the joint. An x-ray exam can confirm the presence of the patella outside of its normal groove.
Unfortunately conservative treatment has little to offer, and the best permanent treatment for patellar luxation is by corrective surgery.
Over time, if untreated the condition worsens and severe arthritis develops which may lead to permanent damage and compromise mobility.
If your dog shows signs of permanent or intermittent episodes of limping on his back leg, along with yelping and signs of discomfort take it to be checked by your vet.
Early treatment of patellar luxation can yield a long, happy and pain free life for your dog.
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