Dislocating Knee Caps will eventually need Surgery

Intermittent Lameness does Not Signal an immediate Crisis


We have a Pomeranian who weighs 10 pounds and just turned 1year. We have been told he has luxating patella dislocating in both kneecaps. He is very active and only shows favor to his knee maybe once a month. Is it possible the bones will form correctly over time? At what age should we consider surgery? What is the down time and what would be the best way to keep this active pup quiet during his healing process?


Dr. Nichol:

I know exactly what you mean about your playful, young Pomeranian. I bet he’s a delightful little guy. Knee problems like his are common in small breeds. Many of them have bowed rear legs. Rather than their knee caps (patellas) moving straight up and down in the grooves on the fronts of their lower thigh bones (femurs) they are pulled to the sides. Over time, all that bone-on-bone scraping can injure the cartilage on their patellas, leading to permanent damage.

There are developmental problems that a dog can outgrow but not luxating patellas. At one year of age a Pomeranian’s bones are fully developed. There is no benefit in waiting to have your boy’s anatomy properly aligned. His knees are mechanically unsound. Without corrective surgery they may have a painful and ultimately nonfunctional future.

For the most qualified advice I consulted board certified surgeon Dr. Peter Schwarz of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Albuquerque. Dr. Schwarz did not strongly recommend immediate surgery. With your dog’s lameness occurring only about once a month he may do fine for another year or two but his pain and limping are almost sure to worsen.

While most affected dogs carry only one rear leg the majority actually have two bad knees. Surgery for these dogs is usually done on both knees the same day. This can make the first couple of postoperative weeks challenging but it’s the only way of assuring that both legs function well over the long term.

During the healing phase your boy should engage in only moderate activity. A sedative plus antiinflammatory and pain medication will be important, along with physical therapy to speed healing.  Full recovery usually takes 8-12 weeks. When your boy passes his last follow-up exam he’ll be cleared for the Iditarod.


Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns? For answers, Like my Facebook page at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.