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Hip Dysplasia or a Luxating Patella? Common Pet Orthopedic Problems

Have you noticed a hitch in your pup’s giddyup? While you may know that the leg bone is connected to the knee bone, there are so many problems that affect your pet’s orthopedic health.

When you find yourself wondering, “Is it hip dysplasia or a luxating patella?” your team atMountainView Veterinary Hospital can help!

Hip Dysplasia in Pets

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball and socket joint of the hip is not properly formed. This results in a loose joint connection, causing instability and pain in one or both hips. Over time, muscle loss and arthritis can occur, further worsening the problem. 

The development of hip dysplasia seems to be at least partially genetic. While it can occur in any breed of dog and even in cats, it’s most often diagnosed in large breed dogs. 

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may include:

  • Weight management
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Joint support through nutraceuticals
  • Pain and inflammation management
  • Surgical procedures including total hip replacement

The Trick with Trick Knees

Luxating patellas, on the other hand, involve the knee joint. In this situation the patella (knee cap) does not stay in the groove centered over the knee. Any dog or cat can have a luxating patella in one or both knees, but we most commonly see it in small breed dogs. 

The patella may slide to the inside (medial luxation) or outside (lateral luxation) of the knee. It may slide in and out freely in some pets. In others it can become stuck in the abnormal position. Either way, it can be uncomfortable and result in inflammation in the knee joint that can lead to the development of arthritis. 

Most pets with a luxating patella are managed medically, although some do require surgery to maintain function and comfort.

So Hip Dysplasia or a Luxating Patella?

Hip dysplasia or a luxating patella affect very different joints in the leg. The lesson here is that it can be very difficult to tell the difference between the two. Both conditions can:

  • Be painful
  • Affect one or both rear legs
  • Lead to arthritis
  • Range from mild or severe
  • Be diagnosed in a very young pet
  • Worsen with weight gain
  • Require surgery

Some pets may even suffer from both conditions – after all the knee bone connects to the hip bone. 

Appropriate management requires an accurate diagnosis. When you have a limping pet it is important to bring them in so that we can get to work. Sometimes we may be able to diagnose a problem based on our orthopedic examination. Many times further diagnostics, including digital x-rays, are necessary to get to the bottom of the cause. 

No matter if it is hip dysplasia or a luxating patella or something else altogether, we are here to help you and your pet. Please don’t hesitate to contact our staff with your questions or concerns regarding your pet.


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