If you’ve seen your Pomeranian limping or holding their leg up high while walking, there’s a good chance your little joy has a luxating patella. While it’s not a particularly painful Pomeranian health problem, it’s by far the most common.
So what exactly is a luxating patella?
Defining a Luxating Patella
A luxating patella is a common condition among small dog breeds where the patella, or kneecap, moves out of, or luxates, its normal position. This condition also goes by trick knee, floating patella, or floating kneecap. Knowing the different terminologies is helpful when discussing it with your family and friends.
“So what exactly is going on with my Pomeranian’s knee?”, you might be asking. Well for many Pomeranians between the ages of four and six months, they start showing symptoms of a luxating patella. While it’s more common for this to occur on only one knee, sadly it sometimes occurs on both knees.
A Pomeranian is often diagnosed with a luxating patella when their owner notices them limping around or holding their own leg up while standing and walking. What’s happening is that your Pomeranian’s knee is slipping outside of the joint that connects it with their legs. Have you seen this with your Pomeranian?
One problem is that people often confuse a dog having a loose knee with having a luxating patella. However, many dogs can have loose knees, but having a loose knee doesn’t necessarily mean they have a luxating patella. A loose knee simply means that the while the knee is a bit more loose in terms of the connection to its joint than is normal, the kneecap doesn’t slip out. Only when the kneecap slips out of its socket is it considered a luxating patella.
Exactly when your Pomeranian’s knee slips out is when the diagnosis can be made that your Pomeranian has a luxating patella. However, there are multiple “grades” that categorize the severity of this Pomeranian health problem.
The patella can be manually luxated but returns to the normal position when released. What this means, in a nutshell, is that when manually slipping the kneecap out of its socket with your hand, it easily comes out. However, the moment you, the owner, release the kneecap it goes directly back to its natural position.
The patella can be manually luxated or it can spontaneously luxate when bending the knee. The patella remains luxated until it is manually repositioned or when your Pomeranian extends their joint. What this means is that, on top of the issues from grade 1, your Pomeranian’s kneecap can at any time slip out of its socket while they’re walking. The only way that the kneecap can get back into its socket after slipping is either manually by hand or when your Pomeranian extends their leg forward.
The patella remains luxated most of the time but can be manually positioned if the dog’s leg is extended. Bending and extending your Pomeranian’s knee results in repositioning of the patella. This essentially means that while your Pomeranian is bending and extending their knee, their kneecap will constantly slip in and out of its socket.
The patella is permanently luxated and cannot be manually positioned while the kneecap socked groove is very shallow or absent. What’s going on here is when your Pomeranian’s kneecap is always out of its socket and can’t even be repositioned manually with your hands. It also means that there is permanent damage to your Pomeranian’s kneecap.
Obviously, it’s important to know where your Pomeranian lies on this grading scale for luxating patellas. That’s why taking your Pomeranian to the vet as soon as possible after seeing them walk funny is of vital importance. The earlier you catch this Pomeranian health problem, the happier you and your Pomeranian will be!
Now that we’ve explored what exactly the issue is when it comes to your Pomeranian’s luxating patella, you might be asking, “What’s causing this to happen?”.
Causes of a Luxating Patella
We’ve just explored the issue of the luxating patella in your Pomeranian, and now we should explore what’s causing this unfortunate Pomeranian health problem. From my experience, knowing and understanding the reasons behind these unfortunate problems has the ability to bring a sense of calm over the situation.
As mentioned before, the luxating patella is particularly common with small dog breeds. Pomeranians are in a club with other dogs that unfortunately share this issue, including Toy Poodles, Maltese, Jack Russell Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Pekingese, Patterdale Terriers, Chihuahuas, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Papillons, Boston Terriers, Plummer Terriers, and Teddy Roosevelt Terriers. Wow, that’s a big club!
One common feature among the luxating patella club, apart from the size of the dogs, is that they all once came from bigger dogs. When it comes to a Pomeranian, they came from the famous Spitz breed of dogs, which were big, strong, Arctic working dogs that had to do some pretty tough jobs.
To breed from large to small dogs, there was a need to breed bigger dogs with other small dogs. This mixed a lot of the genes amongst these dogs which doesn’t always produce the best results, even though they may be much cuter!
This leads to the main cause, which is that it’s a birth defect. This is, unfortunately, the most common reason for a luxating patella in Pomeranians and just cannot be avoided. That’s also the reason that you should notice it happening to your Pomeranian at the ages of four and six months old.
Another cause of a luxating patella is when something hits your Pomeranian’s knee very hard. We all know what it’s like when our Pomeranians are accidentally stepped on, and this could cause a luxating patella. This is a great reason to be very aware of where your Pomeranian is at all times. In particular, it’s important to keep children from purposely or accidentally roughhousing with your Pomeranian. Maybe big dogs can handle these situations, but surely not Pomeranians.
Another cause of a luxating patella is through genetics, which means if your Pomeranian’s biological mom and dad had a luxating patella, the chances are quite high that so will your Pomeranian. If not, then the chance of your Pomeranian having a luxating patella will mostly come down to them having a birth defect or blunt force trauma.
Sadly, two out of three of the main causes of the luxating patella are unavoidable. And since Pomeranians are more likely to get it when compared to other dogs, the only way to help your Pomeranian is to pay attention. Whenever you see your Pomeranian walking strangely, it’s very important that you take note of it and call your local veterinarian.
Most of the time your Pomeranian won’t have any pain and it’ll simply be an annoyance and discomfort. However, it will get worse if not treated properly, and grade four luxating patella is not a happy state for any Pomeranian.
But there are ways to prevent this Pomeranian health issue from deteriorating rapidly. To help your Pomeranian alleviate any pain or discomfort on the way of potentially showing signs of a luxating patella, there are a few methods owners can take to prevent this pain, discomfort, and rapid decline.
How to Prevent a Luxating Patella
There aren’t many ways to prevent a luxating patella from happening if your Pomeranian either has a birth defect or inherits it from their biological mom and dad. However, there are ways to prevent them from having any pain and to reduce the speed of your Pomeranian’s luxating patella getting worse.
For starters, if your Pomeranian doesn’t have any birth defects or genetic issues, then the most powerful prevention method you can take today is to be careful walking around your Pomeranian. It’s easy to miss them from time to time, even though they’re the cutest things in the world! With them being so low to the ground it can be hard to always see them, so it’s easy to accidentally step on them. We all know how it feels when our Pomeranians go through this and we should try to avoid it as much as possible.
Another way of preventing your Pomeranian from developing a luxating patella, if they don’t have a birth defect or genetic issue, is to be careful when letting your Pomeranian play with small children. The amount of joy and love a Pomeranian and child can bring to our hearts is truly immeasurable, but sadly the combination of the two is not always the best mix.
Children can easily step on Pomeranians and even fall on top of them. Sadly, your Pomeranian most likely won’t be able to take this kind of blow easily and it could damage them more than their knees. Also, it makes sense that children would want to play and roughhouse a bit with such a cute, puffy dog. It’s like playing with a stuffed toy animal!
In the cases when your Pomeranian is around children, you must have a high level of awareness and an idea of where to put your Pomeranian if separation is necessary.
Now if you know your Pomeranian has a luxating patella and want to prevent it from deteriorating quickly and becoming potentially painful, there are most definitely options available. The solutions come in the form of vitamin supplements and knee braces.
Surprising as it may be, supplements that target your Pomeranian’s bones, hips, joints, and knees exist and can be quite effective. These supplements help revitalize your Pomeranian’s joints and cartilage with no dangerous side effects. They are extremely safe for your Pomeranian too! They often come with similar ingredients, including glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), turmeric, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Funny enough, the ingredients are also present in joint supplements for people and were proven to be effective on our cuddly canine friends.
In my opinion, every Pomeranian should be taking these supplements with or without a luxating patella. The reason being is that you never know if your Pomeranian will show up with symptoms of a luxating patella. If they do, I want to do everything in my power to prevent them from being diagnosed with a high grade.
Another way to prevent rapid deterioration and potential pain in your Pomeranian from a luxating patella is putting on a knee brace. While this may look a bit strange and your Pomeranian may be slightly resistant to it initially, it’s an excellent way to physically keep your Pomeranian’s kneecap in its socket.
There are many knee braces and wraps out there for your Pomeranian. Oftentimes they make them in all sorts of sizes, so be sure they’ll have them for your Pomeranian. Getting your Pomeranian a good brace is important because you want to make sure that their kneecap stays in place at all times.
You should only get a knee brace for your Pomeranian if you start to notice they’re walking funny. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to spend the money on anything quite yet. Plus you don’t want your little joy to be walking around strangely only because of a knee brace you put on him unnecessarily.
We’ve talked a lot about the luxating patella as an issue, the causes, and ways to prevent degradation and potential pain. All of that is useful information, but we also need to know how we can fix this issue so that our Pomeranians can continue to live a life unimpeded by an unfair Pomeranian health problem.
Best Ways to Treat a Luxating Patella
When your Pomeranian has a luxating patella, the only things you want to do is to make sure they’re not in pain, the problem doesn’t get worse, and it gets fixed. We all want our Pomeranians to live a happy and healthy life while not being restricted in any way.
Since the luxating patella is such a common problem among many dogs including Pomeranians, there are ways to treat it effectively. The most effective way by far is through a surgical operation by an experienced veterinarian.
An important note to make is that if your Pomeranian’s luxating patella is at a grade one level, there’s no need to resort to surgery. It’s likely that you can prevent the deterioration well enough on your own by following the prevention methods discussed in the previous section.
If your Pomeranian has a luxating patella of grades two, three, or four, then surgery is most certainly a requirement. While your Pomeranian is in these grades, they’ll surely degrade further and further down the grade scale until they reach grade four, which is not a good situation to be in.
The type of surgery that’s performed on your Pomeranian is called a sulcoplasty. This is a surgical procedure that deepens the joint location (trochlear sulcus) where the kneecap sits, a realignment of the attached tendons, and tightening or releasing (depending on luxation direction) of the capsule on either side of the kneecap. If your Pomeranian is in grade four, further surgical steps may need to be taken along with these given steps.
While this may sound a bit scary for you and your Pomeranian, rest assured that it’s a common surgical procedure that’s been well practiced by experienced veterinarians.
The recovery process is also important to note since you can really make a difference in the speed and quality of your Pomeranian’s recovery if you’re well prepared. Helping your Pomeranian by reducing the movements of going up and down stairs by instead giving them ramps is very helpful. This definitely helps reduce damage to the patella.
Recovery time generally takes about eight weeks in total, depending on how well the surgery goes and the original damage of your Pomeranian’s patella. Of course, you should discuss the recovery stages with your veterinarian.
Immediately after surgery, most dogs will feel some tenderness in their knee and they’ll self-limit their movements up to a point. Some will immediately feel some improvement or will just be unable to contain their naturally exuberant personalities. It is critical that any exercise restrictions suggested by your veterinarian are strictly followed to ensure a speedy luxating patella recovery timeline.
After the first week, if all is going well, you can move on to some progressive steps in the recovery process. Increase the walking times if your Pomeranian is doing well, up to 10 minutes or even a bit more.
Two to three weeks post surgery, as long as your Pomeranian shows no pain when you do this, begin very gentle massages to the muscles around the hip, thigh, and leg. Slow kneading will help relieve pain and decrease muscle tension. In the beginning, keep the massage periods light and short.
Four to six weeks in, you’ll now be ready to progress to a more complex walk. Put your Pomeranian on a leash and start out with walking in large circles. Large circles are easier than tight ones, to begin with, as they require less flexing of the knees.
Around six to eight weeks post-surgery, walks should now be progressing to 20 minutes or more as long as your Pomeranian shows solid progress. Since Pomeranians are small dogs, some owners only take short walks even before they were diagnosed.
After the eight weeks are over, have your Pomeranian evaluated so your veterinarian can suggest anything further for your Pomeranian’s luxating patella recovery. Some veterinarians will be ready to release your Pomeranian to do many more play activities with the exception of high impact activities.
Again, be sure to communicate as much as you can to an experienced veterinarian before resorting to any treatment. Also, be sure to check their past experience regarding having performed surgery in case you and your Pomeranian pursue that option.