Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation in dogs is a condition where the kneecap (patella) slips out of its fixed position on the femur. This is a common disorder among several dog breeds, and from 15 August 2013 the Norwegian Kennel Club began to centrally register this condition.

We print patella tests

Only veterinarians who have an agreement with Norwegian Kennel Club about issuing patellar tests can carry out the examination and register the results in DogWeb. At A-Vet, Elisabeth Bjørnestad is authorized to issue knee joint certificates.

The owners must bring a completed form from NKK with them when they visit the vet to have certificates issued.

Table of contents

Patellar luxation is a genetically predisposed condition where the dog's kneecap does not stay in its normal position. Usually, dogs do not develop this at birth, but it occurs as a result of abnormal growth in the femur and/or leg bone during the first year of life. This condition can gradually worsen over the course of the dog's life.

The displacement of the kneecap can occur either towards the inside or outside of the knee joint. In small dog breeds, displacement towards the inside is most common.

There are different degrees of patellar luxation, depending on whether the kneecap is periodically or permanently out of joint:

Grade 1: The patella may detach when the leg is stretched, but slides back into place immediately.
Grade 2: The patella detaches spontaneously when the joint is flexed and remains out of joint until it is manually repositioned after the joint is stretched.
Grade 3: The patella is permanently out of joint. It can be put in place when the leg is stretched, but falls out again when bent.
Grade 4: The patella is permanently out of joint and cannot be put back into place.

The NKK uses a scale from 0-3 to classify the degree of patellar luxation.

Prolonged inward and outward movement of the kneecap leads to discomfort or pain, cartilage destruction and early calcification in the knee. The condition can worsen over time if left untreated.

Symptoms of patellar luxation

The symptoms of patellar luxation can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but common signs include limping movements, a bouncing gait, signs of pain such as panting or whining, as well as a decreased activity level. However, it is important to note that not all dogs will show symptoms, especially in cases of less severe patellar luxation. Therefore, regular veterinary examinations are important to detect the condition early and prevent further complications.

When should you operate?

When it comes to treating patellar luxation, surgery may be necessary in cases where symptoms are severe or recurrent. This can be determined by several factors, including the degree of patellar luxation, additional complications such as joint or tendon damage, the dog's age and size, and the effectiveness of conservative treatment methods. In general, younger and smaller dogs often have better results after surgery.

The vet will carefully consider all of these factors and discuss the treatment options with the owner to make the best decision for the dog's well-being. Early intervention and treatment is important to minimize the risk of long-term complications and improve the dog's quality of life.

Over 90% of dogs become completely limp-free after surgery. 

Patella status

For the following dog breeds, the Norwegian Kennel Club has introduced requirements for documented patellar status when registering puppies:

  • Affenpinscher (from 1 March 2021)
  • Bichon Havanais (from April 1, 2016)
  • Boston terrier (from 1 January 2023)
  • Chihuahua short-haired and Chihuahua long-haired (from 1 January 2016)
  • Miniature Pinscher (from 1 April 2019)
  • English Bulldog (from 1 July 2017)
  • French Bulldog (from 1 July 2017)
  • Griffon belge (from 1 March 2021)
  • Griffon bruxellois (from 1 March 2021)
  • Jack Russel Terrier (from 1 January 2019)
  • Japanese chin (from 1 March 2021)
  • King Charles Spaniel (from 1 March 2021)
  • Kleinspitz (from March 1, 2021)
  • Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican naked dog), small and medium variety (from 1 March 2021)
  • Mittelspitz (from March 1, 2021)
  • Pug (from 1 January 2020)
  • Papillon (from 1 March 2021)
  • Petit brabancon (from 1 March 2021)
  • Phalene (from 1 March 2021)
  • Prazsky krysarik (from March 1, 2021)
  • Russian tsvetnaya bolonka (from January 1, 2017)
  • Yorkshire Terrier (from 1 August 2021)

The examination must be carried out by a veterinarian with an agreement with NKK when the dog is at least 12 months old, and the result must be registered on DogWeb.

When using foreign dogs, a copy of the dog's patella certificate must be attached to the registration report. The result from this certificate will be entered into DogWeb for countries that have identical examination routines to Norway, such as Sweden for example. For other countries, the result cannot be entered in DogWeb, but can still apply as "known patellar status" for registration of puppies.

Dispensation for the use of foreign dogs can be applied for. A reasoned application must be sent to the NKK after the breed club's approval before a decision is made. A general dispensation is granted for the use of frozen semen that was frozen before the restrictions came into force, and where the dog is no longer alive.

More information can be found at NKK's websites.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the disorder, or to set up an appointment for a preliminary examination or surgery.