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Living with a Luxating Patella – It’s All in the Muscles!

When the kneecap is out of place (patellar luxation) and an operation is not an option, muscle strength might be the key to help your dog live a pain-free life.

Chihuahua Odie had a rough life. Kept in a puppy mill, in a small cage, no social contact or any form of love. After he got rescued, it was clear to see that all the years of mistreatment had taken their toll on him. Besides skin and ear problems, he started to skip a leg when running. The vet brought the news: Luxating patella. Small dogs are prone to kneecap dislocation, but it can happen in every breed. For Odie, it happens twice: both kneecaps move out of their normal place, one of them more frequently than the other.

What now?

Most of the time an operation is an option, if the luxating patella is between grade two - four. This is where everything is put back into its place and the capsule around the joint is tightened. Odie was out of luck again, though. His tendons and bones are too brittle, tiny and thin, so the vet said it would probably do more harm than good. But good news! Odie is still able to live a pain-free live. Why? Because he is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Chihuahuas.

His amazing new owner helped him strengthen the muscles around the kneecaps, so they can do all the work that is needed. Hydrotherapy is working wonders for him. Odie used to walk on an underwater treadmill for ten minutes every other week. After moving away to an area where no hydrotherapist was available, Odie’s owner fills her bathtub with a bit of water (not higher than the kneecaps) and leads him from end to end a few times a week.

Odie also loves his infrared lamp. He lies under it for half an hour, which warms his muscles. This is especially important because he carries a lot of his body weight now with his front legs. The muscles around the chest are tighter and need loosening from time to time. His massage sessions with a professional massage therapist are working wonders as well!

If your dog has luxating patella, ask your vet about alternatives. Your dog can live a happy life without suffering, even if his kneecaps don’t want to work the way he does.

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