Before I talk about luxating patella dog massage, it’s important that I let you know I am not a veterinarian. I don’t play one on TV, either. I do, however, carefully research everything that I write about and I always suggest that dog owners consult with their veterinarian for any dog-health concerns.
In this article, I want to try to provide plain-language information that will help you do 3 things:
- Understand the dynamics of a luxating patella.
- Recognize the 4 grades of a luxating patella.
- How to carefully administer luxating patella dog massage.
What the Heck is Luxating Patella Dog Massage?
Before I get into luxating patella dog massage, I need to help you understand what the condition is. You have to understand that luxating patella dog massage should only be administered after a veterinarian has diagnosed the condition, shown you some methods, and has given you the okay to practice this at home.
A luxating patella is also known as a:
- slipped kneecap,
- dislocated kneecap
- floating kneecap
Those are words everybody can understand! To help explain what happens, I’m going to ask you to picture a child’s race track. You remember those? You place the toy car at the top of the track and let it go. In theory, the car is suppose to barrel down the track, do a complete loop, and finish right-side-up at the end of the track.
I’ve played with a few race tracks in my life, including one I bought for my son, and it never quite worked the way it was supposed to. It always seemed as if the groove in the race track wasn’t deep enough, and the toy cars were too light.
As a result, the car would end up jumping the track. What happens to the car is similar to what happens to the dog’s knee when it slips out of joint.
In a dog, the kneecap sits in a groove something like that of a race track. If the groove is deep enough, there’s no problem. If the groove is too flat, the knee is at risk of sliding left or right.
LATERAL LUXATING PATELLA (aka LEFT-SLIDING KNEECAP): Lateral luxation is actually rare and happens when the kneecap slides to the outside of the leg.
MEDIAL LUXATING PATELLA (aka KNEECAP SLIDES INWARD): This is much more common, especially in small breeds. In this case, the kneecap slips out of the groove and slides toward the dog’s body.
When this happens, you might notice your dog jump and skip. It kind of looks like a bunny hop, then quickly fixes itself. It’s possible it’s happened many times before you even noticed it.
I love the way the woman in the video below explains it. She has slo-mo images of her dog running and climbing and makes it super easy to understand! It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch it.
Hello? You Were Going to Talk About Luxating Patella Dog Massage!
Right. Sorry. So here’s the thing; luxating patella dog massage should only be done after a veterinarian shows you precisely how to do it. I’m not trying to get out of explaining it to you (in fact, I will try). I just want to make sure you understand that unless the problem is very minor, massage isn’t the answer, and could even make it worse.
Okay, so let’s assume you’ve been to the veterinarian and you’ve been given some tips on luxating patella massage. The first thing you should do is sit with your dog in a relaxed, quiet location. Instead of going straight for the knee, I prefer to calmly pet my dog in long, slow motions from the tip of the head down the back. Here are a few steps to get into it:
1) Make sure you’re in a quiet location without other animals around.
2) Sit quietly with your dog until he/she is fully relaxed.
3) I start with regular patting in long, easy strokes. Once I see my dog is okay with this, I gradually increase the pressure. Not too much!
4) Once my dog’s head is down and I can see she’s fully relaxed, I gently but firmly encircle the top of each leg (the healthy legs first) and rub from the top, down towards each kneecap, but not on the kneecap.
5) Never apply a lot of pressure directly on the kneecap or any joint.
6) Finally, when I get to the tender knee, I ease my way into it with soft rubbing around the knee (not on the knee). When I see my dog isn’t flinching or scared, I start back at the top of that leg. Using just my thumbs, I press firmly and slide my thumbs down to the kneecap and stop. I repeat that several times to bring blood flow to the knee.
7) Again, never place direct pressure on any joint. That said, I carefully move my hand over the knee to get a sense of how it feels. If it feels like it’s in place and my dog still isn’t showing any distress, I will continue massaging the leg, always being extra careful around the knee joint.
I like the following youtube video demonstrating dog massage although I’m not in a position to endorse it. I would massage my dog, but only if he/she had no serious condition.
No massage oil is needed or required.
VETERINARIAN DIAGNOSIS IS A MUST!
Hey, it’s not that I don’t trust you. I’m not a veterinarian, and if you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re not a veterinarian either. Here’s the thing, if the luxating patella is graded 2, 3, or especially 4, the dog may require surgery and physiotherapy. Performing at-home massage could aggravate the condition and you don’t want that.
Here is a List of Dogs More Prone to Luxating Patella:
Small, or toy breeds, tend to be more prone to this problem. In many cases it’s simply a genetic defect. Puppies should be exercised in moderation. Excessive exercise while the puppy is still forming his/her skeletal body could inflict damage. However, that’s really not the main cause of the problem.
You’re more likely to see luxating patellas in:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- American cocker spaniel
- Basset hound
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- English springer spaniel
- Lhasa Apsa
- Toy Poodle
- Shar Pei
What Were You Saying About Grading a Luxating Patella?
Like any medical condition, there are usually different grades of a disease or condition. With a dog, slipped knees or trick knees are classified in grades of 1 to 4 as follows:
1. Grade I: This is a fairly easy grade to manage. The knee might slip out of place but it easily goes back in. It can be massaged and generally doesn’t become a huge problem. The dog isn’t in pain.
2. Grade II: Things get a little trickier here. The knee can be put back into place but it’s likely to come right back out once the dog resumes activity. He might not be in pain, but there’s a possibility of developing arthritis. And THAT will cause pain.
3. Grade III: You can probably guess that we’re getting into some tricky territory at this point. Here, the dog is in pain and there’s a greater likelihood that surgery will be required because the knee remains out of joint most of the time.
4. Grade IV: At this level, the kneecap simply can’t be manually readjusted, even with the leg fully extended.
Will Luxating Patella Dog Massage Ever Be An Option?
Here’s the answer everyone hates: yes and no.
Luxating patella dog massage is never advised at grades 2 to 4, which is why you need to have your veterinarian’s approval. He/she is the only person who can tell you what stage the dog is in.
Again, the steps to massage I’ve noted above are not to be performed on a dislocated kneecap and never without your veterinarian’s okay. Your dog might not require surgery, but a knee brace and/or physiotherapy is possible. Another treatment mode could include hydrotherapy.
If your dog must have surgery, the veterinarian will suggest the best post-recovery plan for your dog. During the healing process, the leg and knee should not be massaged at all. The veterinarian MIGHT give you the okay after the knee has had time to heal in position, but ask first.
Types of Surgical Intervention:
Veterinarians generally don’t want to jump straight to surgery. It’s expensive (somewhere in the $2000 range), and there is always a risk when putting a dog under anesthesia. If surgery is recommended, it usually follows three steps:
- the groove is deepened (remember the analogy of the race track?)
- malformation of the shin bone is corrected
- over-stretched ligaments around the kneecap are shortened.
In a long-term situation where the cartilage has completely worn away (the way it does with arthritic patients), the kneecap can be put back in place, but the cartilage cannot be replaced. In this situation, the dog has a better quality of life, but it isn’t perfect.
Luxating Patellas (Slipped Knees) Can Happen at Any Age
If you have a small dog breed, don’t think you’re out of the woods because he/she is still a puppy. In fact, if genetics plays a role (and it usually does), you might see this problem earlier rather than later.
If you ever see your dog suddenly do a “bunny hop” that quickly returns to normal, don’t pass it off as a one-time thing. That’s a clear sign of a sliding kneecap.
If your dog is getting older and has had this problem, there is a risk of the dog tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee (otherwise known as the ACL joint). This is really painful and likely requires surgery.
So…What Am I Looking For Exactly?
In the early stages, it might actually look cute. You know..your dog is running and jumping, hopping and shaking his leg. It’s quick and it returns to normal so you might e inclined to think it was just a “thing”. In reality, you should be watching for the following signs:
- Favoring one leg
- Knee won’t bend
- Pain when moving the leg
- Hesitates to jump or run
- Won’t exercise at all
Gently inspect your dog’s leg for any swelling and make an appointment to see the veterinarian. While on the phone, ask what you can do to make your dog more comfortable while waiting for the appointment.
Good luck! The best part of having a dog is the joy and exuberance it brings to the family. Nothing takes joy out of your life than a dog who can’t move. It’s sad and painful for everybody. Take good care of your little family member and remember….no massage unless the veterinarian has given instruction.
Look, I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a veterinarian. I love dogs and I would never knowingly say or do anything to harm them. Please take the information I’ve given you for entertainment purposes. I think it’s mostly on-track, but I would rather you take your dog to a qualified veterinarian.
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