It’s been almost two years since our Labrador retriever mix Luke was diagnosed with luxating patella, also known as patellar luxation or “trick knee”. I wrote two posts about this condition back then, but haven’t done a thorough update since. Below are links to those two posts.
Luxating Patella – What I’ve Learned:
Click here for Part 1 – Scientific Explanation of this Condition
Click here for Part 2 – Options for Treatment and Prognosis
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and I am only sharing what I’ve learned through research and our own experience. If you believe your pet has this condition, you should visit your own vet for professional advice. *This post contains affiliate links. If you order products through these links we will receive a small commission, and we thank you.
To this date, Part 2 of that series is my most visited post, and I still get many comments from pet families sharing their own stories of their dogs with this condition. That tells me that many people are dealing with this, and I felt I should give an update on how “conservative management” has been working for us.
Our own veterinarian recommended surgery for Luke’s Grade 2 (he has Grade 1 in one knee and 2 in the other), though not all vets do. We have not and probably never will rule out surgery, but our hope has always been to at least be able to wait until Luke is older and hopefully calmer. The recovery from surgery can be long and difficult. Right now, management is still working well for us. Here are the recommendations for non-surgical ways to help this condition:
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight, preferably on the lean side. I was surprised when reading some old posts to see that Luke weighed 73 pounds when he turned one year old. Now he averages around 62! He is very lean, but we think he looks great. You can feel but not see his ribs so I think he is at his ideal weight and that must make it easier on his joints.
- Keep your dog moving to develop and maintain strong muscle tone. Special attention can be paid to strengthening the back legs/quadriceps muscles. I’ve slacked a little bit in this department. I should get him out on hills more. We get outside moving every day though. I think swimming would also be an ideal low impact exercise for him, and I’m hoping next year we’ll get to put our pond in so he can go more often.
- Joint supplements. Because arthritis is almost inevitable whether there is surgery or not, it’s best to get those joints all the help they can get as soon as possible. We’ve tried some different ones over the last two years. They all seemed to work fine but we’ve switched when we think it could do better. He is currently on Dasuquin* and right now it’s working great.
- A low carbohydrate diet to benefit the joints. We stick to grain free food and try to choose meatier treats. We try to be sure any carbohydrates he does get are healthier options. There’s so much information out there on this subject that it can get confusing though; we simply do our best. We will be switching to and reviewing a new food soon, and I did extensive research to feel sure that this food will benefit him.
- Other therapies could include chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, and Adequan injections. We are not currently using any of these but we haven’t felt the need. Luke’s fearfulness would make most impossible anyway.
- We do a couple of additional things: we have stairs* going to our higher bed and the couch. We still have difficulty getting Luke to use them all the time, especially when he’s excited, but we try. I think moving to our new house where there are far less stairs to run on or leap over has to be a benefit as well.
- The throw rugs we have added to our wood floors are helping Luke as well as Cricket with her arthritis. We don’t discourage Luke from running or playing; but when choosing an activity/sport for him I went with nose work since it is low impact. We still might try some different agility that doesn’t involve jumps, or only do low jumps. I’m trying to find more low impact ways for him to get exercise.
With all that in mind, we still know that surgery may be in his future. But I’m happy to say we don’t see his knee pop out very often, maybe once a month at the most. He rarely yelps when it happens, and usually just keeps going on 3 legs. He seems to know how to get the knee to pop back in by just extending his leg. Winter may be a little tougher, especially if it’s icy, but we are also more diligent then.
Right now, we are very happy with what we’re doing for Luke and we hope that we can continue this good trend for quite a while. This is what works for us, but remember if your dog has been diagnosed with luxating patella, you need to consider all your options and what is best for your dog, along with the help of your veterinarian.