Case of the week: Verl’s knee repair


Verl is an 8 month old small breed puppy. Her parents brought her in for a visit because her rear legs kept “giving out” when she was running around. They noticed that she would suddenly have to sit down or sometimes she would hold up a leg.  During her exam Dr. Fay noted that Verl  was suffering from  Medial Patellar luxation. This means that Verl’s knee cap was slipping in and out of place.  When she was running around having puppy fun, her knee cap would slide to the inside of her leg and she would either have to hold the leg up or stop walking.

  Medial patella luxation (MPL) is a condition in which the patella (knee-cap) no longer moves within its natural groove in the femur( the upper bone of the knee joint). It becomes displaced to the inside of the joint and can be intermittent or permanent. Usually in less severe cases after the animal moves the leg around the knee cap will slip back into place and they are able to walk normally again.

MPL can occur as a result of injury, but more commonly this is a problem that many small breed dogs develop during the first year of their life due to being born with a very shallow groove for the knee cap to move in.  It is most commonly found in a wide variety of small dogs such as Pomeranians, poodles, Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, Chihuahuas and many other toy breeds. It also occurs in larger breeds but, not as often. In very severe cases, if not repaired, the knee cap can become permanently dislocated and the dog will not be able to use that leg.

Verl was suffering from severe luxation of her right knee and moderate luxation of her left knee. At eight months of age, she was already beginning to have difficulty with day to day activity. Without repair, she would face ongoing lameness, early onset arthritis, and loss of muscle tissue. Dr. Fay recommended surgical repair to allow Verl to regain normal use of her right leg.  Because we offer orthopedic surgery, Verl and her parents did not have to be transferred to a specialty office for the repair surgery.

Dr. Fay repaired the patella luxation on Verl’s right knee this week. The repair is accomplished by deepening the natural groove that the kneecap rides in and tightening the muscles on the outside of the kneecap.  She will have to have very limited activity for 4-6 weeks and then will begin increasing her activity.  Full recovery can take as long as 3-4 months in some cases. Over 90% of pets who have the surgical repair go on to lead normal, pain free lives.  We hope to see Verl back to her cute bouncy lil self very soon!!!