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Patellar luxation typically occurs in dogs weighing less than 20 pounds, although it can strike larger dogs and cats.
The patella, or kneecap, sits in a groove that runs along the femur. As the knee is bent, this bone glides up and down to accommodate the motion. Patellar luxation takes place when the patella moves out of alignment to either side. Frequently, this is because of an inherited problem.
Patellar luxation may be identified during a routine physical examination at a veterinary clinic. More often, it is discovered when a pet is examined for intermittent limping.
Typically, the pet will hold up a rear leg for short periods of time but then appear to use the leg normally. It may affect one or both hind legs, with 50 percent of cases occurring in both. The pain can be mild to severe.
There are four levels, or grades, of patellar luxation. In grade 1, the patella is loose enough to be moved in and out of place. In grade 2, the patella easily moves in and out of its groove. In grade 3, the patella is often out of normal alignment and can be difficult to return to its proper position. In grade 4, the patella is permanently out of location, and the pet is often in such pain that he or she doesn't walk much.
There are many ways to aid your companion. Glucosamine can help to reduce the amount of damage by keeping the joint surfaces smoother. Pain medications can provide comfort.
A surgical correction also can be helpful and in several instances is necessary. It is the only treatment that can resolve musculoskeletal or ligament misalignment.
When limping is present, your veterinarian is the best person to evaluate your cherished companion's health.
Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic. Read all her columns at recordnet.com. Contact her at .