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?
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 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