Patellar Dislocation and Treatment Options

Patellar Dislocation and Treatment Options at PetCare Veterinary Hospital

Definition and Cause(s)

  • Patellar luxation is defined as dislocation of the kneecap (patella) from the trochlear groove (the groove that guides the patella).
  • Patellar luxation may be the result of trauma.
  • More commonly, patellar luxation is caused by bone abnormalities that result in misalignment of the quadriceps muscles and inadequate trochlear depth resulting in insufficient support of the patella.
  • Regardless of the cause, patellar luxation may result in intermittent to persistent lameness and disability for your pet.


  • Diagnosing dislocation of the patella can be accomplished with an orthopedic examination.
  • X-rays are useful in determining the severity of bone abnormalities and strategies that may be useful in correcting for patellar instability.

Treatment Options

  • In mild cases, the diagnosis may be an incidental finding on a routine exam. If symptoms are mild and infrequent, surgery may not be required unless symptoms progress.
  • When symptoms are more severe, surgery is required to restore alignment and stability of the patella.
  • Many surgical procedures are used in combination to accomplish three primary objectives in patellar surgery:
    • Improve quadriceps alignment within the trochlear groove
    • Deepen the trochlear groove
    • Restore connective tissue balance resulting in neutral tension on both sides of the patella
  • In severe cases, corrective cutting of the bone of the femur and tibia are used in combination with previously listed techniques to achieve adequate patellar stability and joint comfort.

Post-Operative Recovery

  • Most dogs and cats will spend 12 nights in the hospital, followed by additional recovery provided in the home environment.
  • Surprisingly, when both knees are operated on at the same time, patients only require an additional day or two of hospital care before they are able to walk using both back legs.
  • Recovery is typically gradual, requiring 46 weeks of reduced activity followed by 46 weeks of leash walks.


  • With good aftercare, complications are infrequent and surgery is curative.
  • Functional restoration is typically good to excellent, resulting in the ability to run, jump, and play in good comfort.

If you have questions about patellar luxation in your pet, you can schedule consultation with one of our board-certified surgeons by calling (707) 579-3900.