Patellar Luxation in Chihuahuas – What You Should Know

If you've noticed your Chihuahua hopping while holding one of their back legs up, chances are they are suffering from a knee condition known as "patellar luxation." This is one of the breed's most common health problems, as Chihuahua experts and health professionally estimate roughly 10% of the population suffers from it. At first glance, it may not seem like a concerning issue, but the fact is that patellar luxation can become progressively worse over time, which is why it's important to closely observe your Chihuahua if they are suffering from it. Here we'll take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for patellar luxation in Chihuahuas.

What is Patellar Luxation?

Chihuahua Knee X-Ray

Chihuahua Knee X-Ray

Patellar luxation is a condition in which the kneecap (patella) slides out of its normal place, which is frequently off to the side. In a healthy canine, there are grooves at the base of the femur where the kneecap gently slides in and out of as the canine walks and moves about. These cartridge grooves are necessary to create a smooth surface for the knee to move back and forth. However, when the bony sides of the groove are compressed, the area too small for the kneecap to fit; therefore, it slides or luxates out of place.

Patellar luxation is generally broken down into one of two different categories -- medial and lateral. A Chihuahua suffering from medial patellar luxation will have their kneecap slip toward their body, while a Chihuahua suffering from lateral will have their kneecap slip out to the sides and away from their body. An experienced veterinarian should be able to tell what type of patellar luxation your Chihuahua is suffering from by a simple examination and x-ray.

Here are the (4) levels of severity with patellar luxation:

  • Grade I - The most minor grade of patellar luxation where the Chihuahua may or may not exhibit visible symptoms. When the patella slips out of place, it can oftentimes be manually maneuvered into the socket by hand. You'll want a skilled veterinarian to show you exactly how to do this before trying it on your own.
  • Grade II - The kneecaps are more likely to slip out of their normal position in Grade II patellar luxation. Typically, this occurs when the Chihuahua is running, walking or jumping, but it can also happen for no reason at all in Grade II. A Chihuahua suffering from this condition may begin to show signs of pain and discomfort, and they may also begin to develop arthritis as a result.
  • Grade III - This is one of the more severe grades of patellar luxation in which the kneecap tends to stay out of place most of the time. This prevents the Chihuahua from walking or running as they normally do, except when/if it pops back in place. Most Chihuahuas with Grade III patellar luxation will have their kneecap remain out of place most of the time.
  • Grade IV - The kneecap is permantantly out of its normal position and doesn't go back on their own. Most Chihuahuas suffering from Grade IV patellar luxation will have a difficult time walking, which is why they hold their leg up. You should consult with a veterinarian to see if surgery is a viable option for Chihuahuas suffering from this condition.
Patellar Luxation Surgery

Patellar Luxation Surgery

Patellar Luxation Symptoms

Patellar luxation is most easily identified by looking for a characteristic hopping behavior where they are intentionally trying to keep weight off a problematic leg. Instead of walking or running as they normally would, a Chihuahua suffering from this condition will typically hold up their leg (usually the back) because the knee cap locks up and won't perform as it should. Thankfully, though, their knee should go back into its normal position once your Chihuahua stops to relax.

Chihuahuas suffering from extreme cases of patellar luxation (grade I and II) may experience pain and discomfort as a result of the patella rubbing the bony area outside the groove. When the kneecap locks up, they may whimper or yelp as a result of the pain it causes. The best thing you can do when this happens is to comfort your dog and help them find a comfortable resting area. The pain should go away away when the patella goes back in its original position.

Patellar Luxation Treatment

Unfortunately, treatment options are limited for Chihuahuas suffering from patellar luxation. Most veterinarians recommend that Chihuahua with grade I or II patellar luxation be closely observed and watched. Instead of allowing the jump down from the couch, bed or chair, pick them up and place them on the ground. High jumps can frequently cause their kneecap to slip out of its place and lockup; therefore, creating an episode where your Chihuahua is forced to hold up their problematic leg. Also, it's recommended that you avoid placing pressure on their leg with patellar luxation. When you pick up your Chihuahua, gently hold them by their body and avoid the area that's causing them pain or discomfort.

For Chihuahuas suffering from grade II or IV patellar luxation, sugery may be recommended depending on the severity of their condition. While there are several different surgical procedures intended to treat this condition, the most common involves widening the groove where the patella slides, along with repositioning the necessary ligaments and tightening the capsules. This is a fairly invasive procedure with several risks of its own, which is why only Chihuahuas suffering from serious cases of patella luxation are recommended for it.

As long as your Chihuahua isn't experiencing pain or discomfort from their patellar luxation, surgery typically isn't recommended. Before jumping the gun, you should take your Chihuahua to a veterinarian who's skilled and experienced in this condition to determine if it's a helpful option for them. The veterinarian should be able to determine this by performing a physical examination of their patella and by running a series of x-rays on the area.

Video of 3lb Chihuahua Suffering From Patellar Luxation


Patellar Luxation By David M. Nunamaker

Patellar Luxation Surgery and Treatment

25 Responses to “Patellar Luxation in Chihuahuas – What You Should Know”

  1. Shelley Schniepp Thraen says:

    Supplements for subluxating patella. Are there any that help?

  2. Mike Rinaldi says:

    My Chi mix has had this Grade II on her right read leg since we got her 14 months ago. This week she fell off the passenger car seat (12″ fall) and now it seems like her left knee has the same problem. At some point we will consider surgery. Can someone tell me the success rate and side effects of healing. Length of healing… Also, what does this type of surgery cost?

    Thanks! Our cute chi-mix would like it’s mobile life back and any help with these questions would be very much appreciated.

    • Sue says:

      Hi Mike
      We have a pomeranian/chihuahua mix (Lilly) who has had both her legs done. In 2012 cost $1700 & 2015 $1750. There was a check-up after 3 days & sutures out after 10 days. Very limited exercise for 8 weeks with care that all exercise was on a leash, on good surfaces and on flat ground. No steps, running or jumping on or off furniture. Lilly was a good patient who didn’t chew at her stitches – but it was heartbreaking to see such a tiny girl enduring so much. In sympathy with her condition we lowered our bed to the floor so she could be with us for comfort…. she got through both ops and recovered well – that is until arthritis / stiffness in the joints starts and then its recommended for a course of cartrophen injections (3) at regular intervals – as per your vet. Lilly is now 10 years old and has just been to the vets today to start another course of needles and as per previous times will hopefully be up and about by the second needle next week. I will continue with the injections whilst she is enjoying a quality of life. Sure its cost some money, but hey… as all true pet owners know…. what is the price for unconditional love.

  3. Just My Two Cents says:

    My vet told me our Chihuahua has Patellar Luxation in her left back knee. We thought her hopping around in the back yard was just a funny quirk but our vet confirmed it was this condition. She never yelps so I’m not planning on doing surgery. Surgeries on animals are super expensive and I don’t think spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on an animal is practical. Yes, they are part of the family but they are NOT kids. If I had to choose between one of my kids or my dog, my kids will win EVERY time! Not even a hesitation there. So many people are like OMG pets are family….blah, blah, blah….no they are not exactly like family. They’re part of a family but NOT family. Geez people! So as our dog ages, we will see how she does…as long as it’s only one knee she should be just fine…she will just continue to hop around, dogs with three legs do it all the time. They don’t know they are missing a leg, it’s just normal to them. But if she starts getting pain and she is elderly…well she lived her life well and we will euthanize her. She won’t know what’s going on, and won’t be in any pain.

    • Rach says:

      You should have Insurence to pay for whatever your dog needs.
      The way you talk about your dog you shouldn’t be allowed to have one.
      They are part of the family and you should be responsible, get Insurence and change your attitude.
      A dog is a life. And your responsible for that life.
      The moment you invited a dog in your home you should have been aware of all the responsibilities they come with.
      A life is a life no matter is it’s a dog or a child.

    • kim curan says:

      any pet is part of YOUR FAMILY!!
      you are selfish and should not have any pets.
      you should give up for adoption so the dog will have a loving home and be taken care of.
      some people dont deserve the unconditional love pets give you.
      its just unreal how many people are like this!
      dont get pets if you cannot take care of them!

    • Lesley says:

      I agree with u. Ur kids should come first bc at the end of the day, a pet is not a family member. It is not a daughter, son, sister or brother. It is an animal u can buy, sell or do with as u plz, the law permitting. Ideally, u do the best for them out of moral obligation and some level of emotional attachment but at the end of the day they are animals. Plain and simple.

      So many ppl seem to struggle with this reality. They act as though an animal’s life and welling being are either equal to or greater than a fellow human being’s. They’d sooner feed a stray than offer assistance to a person suffering from homelessness. Yet, these same ppl often have no quarrels with eating meat such as those meats procured from cows, slaughtered bc of their health issues.

    • Amanda Good says:

      If you don’t care that much surrender your dog to a rescue, at least they will pay for an operation and find it a much more loving home. All animals suffer the same pain as humans, we are all mammals. A dog maybe smaller but the pain will be the same.

    • Lee Matteau says:

      Thanks, that really helped. I have one income and 2 dogs and my 13 yr old chi is not getting surgery. He is hopping around on 3 legs and does not appear to be in pain.

  4. Jennifer says:

    My chihuahua/ jack has started making a sound in her throat, it sounds just like a duck noise,especially when she has had a drink.
    Asked the vet she just said keep an eye on it.
    Does any one have the answer as to why she does this???

    • Lee says:

      The duck honking sound is common among little dogs because their trachea is so small and temporarily collapses. I freaked when my chi did this when I first rescued him and tongue would turn blue gasping for breaths of air. They sometimes do it when they are nervous too.

      My vet said to gently massage the front throat to encourage the dog to swallow, it can sometimes help the trachea open up again.

      Try to keep the dog calm when this happens because their breathing is affected and causing more stress doesn’t help.

      The vet said in extreme cases they can prescribe relaxants.

    • Josh says:

      Reverse sneezing just rub the throat not much else you can do

  5. Jean says:

    Can this also happen to a front leg?

  6. Melody says:

    TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET THERE ARE SOME PLACES THAT WILL PUT YOU ON A PAYMENT PLAN. …So I just got back from the vet. And my dog is having this problem it’s starting off very benine its the jumping from high distances get stairs I have some but some times my lil guy just gets tp excited and wants to jump down . What you want do is take his back leg and. Gently don’t yank just gentle pull it straight this should manually pop it back in place for time being my vet told me this mines not in pain he’s not in pain that I can tell but as soon as he is he’s getting surgery. So basically if your dog is in a up and down mood jumping off the bed or couch try and keep the on the floor instead of letting them jump down place them on the floor pick them up vice versa

  7. Mommom says:

    Are you kidding me? At least take the poor dog to the vet…they will work out payment due to emergency visit…find an animal emergency hospital and have the dogexamined…you say it happened before…may want to observe ur animal more.and.prevent any further i juries in the future…

  8. Yvette Garcia says:

    I have a 12 year old chihuahua “Ryan” that woke up yelping at 4am..i checked her over and nothing was visibly wrong..loved and kissed on her until she went back to sleep. At 6am i picked her up to put her out to do her business and i noticed her limping visibly in pain. After a very expensive vet visit we were sent home with numerous bottles of heart medications. This is the first of any heart problems she has ever had. Is this common for this age chihuahua? After reading on the Patellar Luxation,im wondering if i should seek a second opinion before i start pumping her full of meds.. She stands and walks just like the little chihuahua in the video…visibly in pain..Shes the love of my life so i thought i should get some opinions before i take her in and be told im over reacting..any comment will be greatly appreciated..

  9. Cassandra says:

    My Chihuahua got ran over on his back leg and blood was coming out of his peanus he can barely eat what should I do I don’t have the money for doctors to do surgery on him I had that happen before on my last Chihuahua but he got better what should I do please help me please.

    • Jen says:

      Are you kidding?? Take him to the vet right now! What is wrong with you!?

    • Angie says:

      I will put it to you like this… go out find someone with a car have them run you over until you leg is broken and blood it coming out of your private parts… and when you are in pain an do not want to eat … have someone go onto a website and ask what they should do for you instead of seeking medical help which is rather obvious is needed

      • Vito says:

        Excellent suggestion!!! I hope it works.

      • Sky Quarto says:

        That is very mean! Yes, owners should take their pets to the vet immediately! with such symptoms, even less severe. It can be expensive, but that is a pet owners god given responsibility! Pets are family! Vets will let you pay on a payment plan usually! If not go elsewhere, but FAST! Don’t let your pet suffer!

    • Donna says:

      I hope you did the right thing. I can imagine how painful your dog was in. It breaks my heart. People that can’t afford care, should not have animals. That’s a given. Animals require healthcare just like kids, so don’t have either if you can afford it.

      It’s been awhile since this posting, but I prey he got proper care.

  10. Jessica says:

    My chiuahah was playing to rough earlier and she started yelping and a few minutes later she was limping do you think this is what happen?

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