Casey and her floating kneecap

This little lovebug is Casey. Casey is a rockstar on top of being beautiful. She has a bad case of luxating patella AKA floating kneecaps in her back legs and it was really crimping her style. For instance, when Casey wanted to run and chase other dogs she had to do so using three legs, since that pesky leg got in the way! Luckily Casey’s mom was referred to us to see if we could help her darling little lady.


When Casey first started seeing us her floating kneecap was popping in and out of socket with nearly every step. It was constant and she had lost a great deal of muscle tone because she didn’t want to use this leg. We knew this wouldn’t be a quick fix, but her mom was willing to give us a shot because she didn’t want to do surgery.


Within three weeks our little Casey was already putting weight on that back leg. Within another three weeks Casey was using her leg more than she wasn’t, and by the end of two months this little girl was almost always using her back leg. Her kneecap would pop out but she was able to correct it, and this was only happening once every few weeks as opposed to daily. Casey hardly ever limps anymore and she’s faster and more energetic than ever. What may have been bleak chances turned into the best decision that could’ve been made for this love monkey. We are so proud of her progress!


Luxating Patella and Conservative Treatment Options

Luxating Patella – What’s the Cause and How to Treat Conservatively


Luxating patella is a common orthopedic condition in a small animal practice, but what causes it? There are a few theories out there, but many cases appear related to genetics, trauma, or developmental issues. Don’t stress if your pet suffers from it, though. There are conservative options out there to help those afflicted. However, we need to first understand who struggles with the condition and why. Then, we can discuss natural treatments.

luxatingpatellaWhat breeds suffer from luxating patella and why?

As mentioned previously, many cases appear to be inherited – or related to genetics in some capacity. This evidence is so strong that some sources state dogs diagnosed with patellar luxation should not be bred. However, there are a couple of other possible factors that may contribute to the disease as well. For one, trauma may injure the knee leading to a misalignment of the patella. Another potential cause is developmental in nature. Developmental luxating patella may be a result of complex skeletal abnormalities affecting the entire limb, including:

  • Abnormal hip joints
  • Abnormal femur head conformation
  • Abnormal tibia conformation
  • Tightness or atrophy of the quadriceps muscle
  • A long patellar ligament

As you can see, there are many biomechanical issues that may be a factor in the progression of the disease.

Who suffers the most from luxating patella then? The condition appears to affect primarily small breeds including Boston terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, miniature Poodles, and many more. However, the disease continues to rise in large breeds. Akitas, Great Pyrenees, Flat-Coated retrievers, and the Chinese Shar Pei are now considered predisposed to the disorder. While it is progressively becoming a disease of all breeds, it still predominantly affects the little ones.

luxatingpatella2Conservative chiropractic care to treat luxating patella

As mentioned previously, many cases are genetic, developmental, or a combination of both. This means an animal is either born with poor structure, or progressively develops it. Since this is the case, a potential solution should involve a profession that works with the structure of an animal conservatively. This is where animal chiropractors come into play, particularly those that focus on structural correction.

Animal chiropractors perform examinations where they assess the quality of motion in the spine and limbs looking for biomechanical issues. When they find any abnormalities, such as a structural shift, they utilize a gentle adjustment to correct it. When this is done it helps the joint move the way it was intended to. This can alleviate many genetic or developmental components that contribute to a luxating patella.

Think about it like this, if the foundation of your house was off would you expect walls to crack and floor boards to pop up? I imagine you would see many problems that develop secondary to a structural shift in the foundation of a house. What might you expect if the foundation of your animal is off? There would be the potential for many secondary conditions such as luxating patella.

To sum things up, luxating patella is a relatively common disease in dogs. It predominantly affects small breeds, but is growing in larger breeds. Most causes appear to be genetic, but there are other factors such as trauma and developmental considerations. The causes all appear related to structure and many cases are suitable for conservative treatment such as chiropractic care. Interested in learning more? Contact a certified animal chiropractor near you today!


Latte and Her Luxating Patella

luxatingpatellaLatte here is a spicy little cup-of-joe. She’s technically a senior dog but you would never know it based on her activity level and her energy. Latte has luxating patella in both of her back legs and she had started to have a lot of trouble with stairs, jumping on furniture, and even going on walks. She was limping and even a little lethargic, and would occasionally cry out in pain. Without knowing what exactly to do to help, her fur family decided to give chiropractic a try.


Latte was slow to get up and unsteady when she moved at her first visit. She hesitated to get into a sit and was struggling to stand from a down position. Her muscles in her hind legs had experienced significant atrophy during the years of having her patellas luxate. Though one side was more severe, they both needed a lot of work to get them up to snuff! Latte was not the happiest of campers getting adjusted because she was in a lot of discomfort…but all that soon changed.


Latte now walks in with purpose and excitement. She doesn’t limp, her muscle tone has equalized and strengthened, and the girl can get up and down without trouble at all. She’s basically become a jumping bean and we cannot get over the progress she has made. Between good parenting and a mobile back end, little Latte certainly doesn’t need her morning cup of coffee anymore!

luxating patella

Josette The Coton and her Luxated Patellas

luxating patellaThis gorgeous little lady is Josette. She’s a coton de tulear and since puppyhood she has struggled with limping in her back end. Come to find out Josette has luxating patella in both of her back legs, a very common condition in her breed. The issue with this condition is that it causes Josette to compensate in other joints for her knee disorder. Her hips were getting sore and her muscles had atrophied significantly in her hind end. Being only a year old, Josette’s family wanted to do everything they can to give her body a chance to recover from this. When surgery was the option they were given, they knew there had to be something else.


Josette came in with no interest in weight bearing on her one back leg at all, making it very difficult for her other leg to function because that one also had the same condition. Her muscles were so severely deficient that even when she did weight-bear she couldn’t do so for long because she wasn’t strong enough. After her first two adjustments Josette began to use her back leg more and more.


With each additional adjustment Josette seemed to improve. She now uses her back legs about 85% of the time and has regained much of the strength she had originally lost. Her kneecaps do not pop in and out to the extent they once did and she’s able to play with her doodle sister more than before. Her energy level is up and stability has also increased. She’s an absolute love an we are so happy she’s come this far without ever having to have surgery!


Watch her video here! Josette Before and After

Alternative Therapies for Luxating Patella

Luxating patella, or “floating kneecaps”, can be a very painful condition in an animal that may require surgical intervention. In our practice, however, we see several clients diagnosed with severe luxating patella that have opted to go the alternative route before turning to surgery. Very rarely have these clients ended up having to go the surgical route because they do everything possible as far as prevention and protection. What all does this alternative route entail? We lay it out for you below.

What is luxating patella?

Floating kneecaps are more often a surprise than anything else. They seem to pop up out of nowhere. One minute your pooch seems to be doing fine and running around like normal, and the next they’re standing in the backyard with one leg hiked up high. One minute later they’re back to running around like crazy as if nothing even happened. You likely just witnessed the “floating” part of the floating kneecap. When the leg gets hiked up, it is the pet’s way of dealing with a kneecap that has popped out of place. After it slips back into it’s proper groove, the leg comes back down and all returns to normal.

luxating patella

Prevention at First Sight

At the first sight of a luxating patella, it’s time to start looking into what you as the owner can do to help your pet. Though they may not seem in pain, a luxating patella can easily turn into a painful condition as your pet ages. The constant popping in and out of the kneecap will cause wear and tear on the tibiofemoral joint and the cartilage will likely be widdled down to nothing while excessive amounts of arthritis forms. In addition, the joints above and below often compensate for the floating kneecap and they too form unwarranted arthritis, thus aging your pet at an alarming rate.

What to do

When it comes to prevention and protection here’s what you can do:

  • Keep your pets weight appropriate
  • Feed a species appropriate diet
  • Integrate a joint supportive supplement that includes MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin
  • Keep exercising your pet to maintain (improves strength and decreases inflammation)
  • Find an animal chiropractor and acupuncturist
  • Include core exercises into your weekly routine


What can an animal chiropractor do for luxating patella? Most importantly chiropractic will maintain proper alignment and mobility in the spine and extremities. When a specific joint is underperforming, it can lead to other joints overcompensating. Through chiropractic, a state of stability and normalcy can be maintained while the muscular system strengthens and stabilizes during core exercises and daily motioning.

luxating patellaAnimal Chiropractic as an Option

Luxating patella is a condition that can absolutely be alleviated by visiting your alternative options before more drastic surgical ones. Do not be intimidated or scared into thinking you do not have options, because you do. There’s much that can be done before all has been exhausted and most of the time this is exactly what your pet needs. What’s imperative is noticing that a problem exists and then doing what you can to fix it in a timely fashion. With luxating patella, timing is very important. If one waits too long your animal can suffer any number of other conditions such as arthritis, hip and ankle problems, gait changes, and cruciate tears. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact Dr. Christina Cole at, or by phone at 248-602-0807.