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Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella with the Maltipoo


This is a medical condition in which the symptoms can be very puzzling to Maltipoo owners. Why? Because a dog may act perfectly fine one moment, be in severe pain the next…And a minute later behave just fine.

What This Is

Luxating patella is when a dog’s kneecap slips out of place. Some dogs are genetically prone to this. It is important to note that a detailed study of over 90,000 dogs showed that hybrid vigor (the element of crossbred dogs having fewer health problems) did not apply to the issue of patella luxation. It occurs with hybrid dogs just as often as it does with purebreds. And the incident rate of this among toy Poodles and the Maltese are rather high.
Maltipoo luxating patella
So, a dog may be genetically predisposed to this, in which case the kneecap is abnormally formed and/or wears down at a rapid pace.  If so, signs may be seen in puppies as young as 4 months old. Injury or even turning or running a certain way may trigger it to slip.  

Aside from this, prone or not, trauma can also trigger this. With toy sized dogs such as the Maltipoo, this would include jumping from from a high distance.
The odd thing about this is that it usually only causes a dog pain when the kneecap is in the process of slipping out of place….If it goes back into place..Or if it stays out of place, the pain usually goes away. The dog may, however, limp as the strength in that knee will be severely reduced.

The slippage can cause internal swelling; this may happen right away or it can take quite a while for it to be moderate enough to cause problems.  Even if recovery goes well, dogs that have had this issue are much more prone to arthritis later in life.

Each case is different….If this is to happen to a Maltipoo, the dog may:
  • Let out a loud yelp when running or doing a certain physical activity and then show resistance to continue movement
  • Hold the leg up in an odd position
  • Drag the leg while walking
  • Limp, favoring a particular leg
  • In severe cases, try to drag themselves with just their front legs
  • OR, as mentioned above, only cry out in pain when the kneecap moves and act fine the rest of the time
If this is not treated, dogs that only have random pain will most likely develop on-going discomfort since swelling in the knee will occur. At this point limping and other signs of the issue may be near constant. 
  • The vet will do a physical examination of the dog's knee and surrounding areas.
  • X-rays will be taken from multiple views

If this is not treated, the ridges of the patellar areas in the knee will wear down…therefore things will get progressively worse for the dog. Arthritis will begin to affect the knee and this often causes permanent swelling and will make it very hard for a Maltipoo to walk and move normally. 

Because of this, it is important to have an experienced and professional veterinarian perform a complete evaluation.

Mild, acute casesIn very mild cases, bed rest is the answer. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the Maltipoo is usually a bundle of energy. However, the puppy or dog must be kept in a crate or cage, only being let out to eliminate. Your veterinarian will need to determine the severity of the problem and then decide how long bed rest is needed. At the minimum, this will need to be for 4 to 6 weeks. 

Many owners find this to be a trying time, since dogs can have a hard time being confined for such a long period of time; however this temporary phase is certainly worth recovery.

In addition, anti inflammatory medication is usually given. This helps with both swelling and discomfort.

Severe and chronic cases -  In some instances, the movement of the kneecap will be so drastic that the veterinarian will already know that bed rest will not be sufficient to heal the knee.  Also, for chronic cases where a Maltipoo suffers slippage on a continual basis, surgery is then recommended. As stated above, if treatment is not given, the dog will suffer more and more pain as the days go by and it will not get better.

When surgery is performed, it is called a Trochlear Modification. The knee cap is basically tied down to hold it in place. The groove in the femur bone may need to be deepened to better hold the dog’s kneecap.

Recovery is rather fast, relatively speaking, with most dogs fully recovered in 30 to 60 days. This does vary depending on how much needs to be done during the dog’s surgery. After a dog has recovered from surgery, they are usually able to run, play and perform all normal activities.

Post Treatment

It has been found that gradually having a dog build up the muscles in his legs can help keep the knee in place and help to prevent another episode.  This is usually done by building up the dog's endurance to walk up hill. You'll want to discuss this with your Maltipoo's veterinarian for recommendations regarding frequency and duration.

Some dogs benefit from hydrotherapy exercise, which is controlled exercises done in a warm, indoor pool. 

As with any issue that involves joint and bones, a supplement for joint health is recommended; this not only provides some relief with the current issue, but also may help reduce the odds of developing arthritis in the future. 
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