Intermittent Lameness does Not Signal an immediate Crisis

Question:
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 the small breeds. The rear legs are somewhat bowed so, rather than moving straight up and down in the grooves on the fronts of his lower thigh bones (femurs), your Pom’s knee caps (patellas) are being pulled to the sides of his knee joints. Over time, all that bone on bone scraping can injure the cartilage on his 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 grown; 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 gradually worsen. While most affected dogs carry only one rear leg the majority actually have two bad knees. Surgery is usually done on both legs the same day so they can be equally functional 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 he passes his last follow-up exam he’ll be cleared for the Iditarod.

Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Mail to 4000 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuq, NM 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.