Pug with a luxating patella? Any option other than surgery?
May 29, 2013 6:19 AM   Subscribe

We have a pug who we adopted a couple of years ago. Upon our first visit to the vet, we were informed she had luxating patella, and that it might one day require surgery, but only if it got worse. Well, it seems to be worse lately - has anyone experienced this, and is there any alternative treatment?

When we first noticed it, we did some searching on the internet, and ordered a supplement - Missing Link. This had a ton of good reviews everywhere, and it seemed to help. However, she also has allergies, so we switched her to an allergy food, and stopped giving her the supplement. She was fine for a while, and then in March, she started limping again. I've taken her to the vet, they've confirmed it's her luxating patella again, and told me that if it wasn't better by her next appointment (August!) they would give me information for the surgery.

We started giving her the Missing Link again for a couple of weeks, but it didn't help at all, and seemed to be making her allergies flare up again, so we stopped. She isn't really slowed down, but limps almost constantly, and it's definitely indicative of the luxating patella.

From some quick reading on the internet, it seems like the surgery will cost between $1500-3000, and there's almost a 50% chance that it won't solve the problem?

Is there anything else that I should be doing before we opt for surgery? Has anyone else been through this (and the recovery time) - is there anything you wished you'd known or asked?

Obligatory pug picture - Blink is 11, and is the black pug, and Pooka is 4, and is the fawn - she is the one we are talking about.
posted by needlegrrl to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is she at all overweight? My dog was having problems with her luxating patella a year or so ago, and getting a pound of extra weight off her did wonders.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:32 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My chihuahua has had issues with this occasionally, though not severe enough to need surgery. It is purely a physical issue - caused by the groove that the patella sits in being too shallow - so there is no way that any kind of supplement can affect it.

When I first talked to our vet about it, she said that the best we can do is ease strain on his legs - make sure he doesn't get overweight, prevent jumping from furniture and dancing on his back legs as much as possible, and make sure he's getting lots of exercise that doesn't aggravate the problem (walks). We've been careful about all this stuff and my little guy hasn't had any problems for years. There's no real fix other than surgery if its already gotten bad though, so listen to your vet.
posted by ella wren at 6:40 AM on May 29, 2013

My pup (a Boston Terrier) also has a low-level LP in one hind leg, and I've been controlling it by keeping a close eye on his weight as well as giving him one glucosamine-chondroitin 'Hip Action' treat every day. Even just 1-2 pounds can make a huge difference in the way he carries himself, so I make sure to measure out his food and weigh him often, as well as keep watch when he has the zoomies and starts jumping around a whole bunch.
There is also Cosequin (which works magical wonders for my beloved, ancient, and very arthritic cat) formulated especially for dogs.

While I'd definitely recommend looking into weight loss and Cosequin before moving forward with the surgery, unfortunately, LP is a very common issue in small breeds due to poor breeding practices, especially in brachycephalic breeds like pugs, BTs, Frenchies, etc., so it may indeed be inevitable.
After the first time my little dude's knee popped out, my vet told us the same thing, basically: We'll keep an eye on it for now, but there is likely to come a time when surgery will be the best option. That was about two years ago; we've been cruising along just fine with glucosamine/chondroitin supplements and low-joint impact exercise, but I've been socking money away in case he ever needs the surgery done. Yes, it's quite pricey; yes, the original condition can return after surgery is done.

For more information on what the recovery process will be like, I would highly recommend searching for 'luxating patella' or 'LP surgery' on a few pug-specific forums and message boards, like PugVillage. At the very least, it will require a few weeks of crate rest, which may be tough if Pooka is a wriggly, feisty pug rather than a snoozy lap pug.

Good luck, and please give those sweet pups a smooch from me! They are the cutest.
posted by divined by radio at 6:50 AM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: Ah - weight loss. We have restricted her food intake, and she is no longer overweight, according to the vet. I think she's right at 20 lbs now.

I'll look into the Cosequin and supplements.
posted by needlegrrl at 7:00 AM on May 29, 2013

Get surgery.

My miniature schnauzer has this. She's had some surgery and is going to have another procedure. Weight loss helped but ella wren above is right - supplements do nothing to help a shallow groove in the bone the patella sits in.

Having had exactly the same problem myself as a human, I know what this feels like. Please listen to your vet and don't misplace your faith in supplements as this is a mechanical issue.

And awwwww pugs! Give her a hug from me too.
posted by dowcrag at 11:41 AM on May 29, 2013

Did your vet tell you which 'grade' the luxating patella is at this stage? From your post, it seems it may already be at grade 2 or higher, especially if your vet is recommending the commencement of surgery in just 3 months.

My experience with using palliative joint health supplements has been for grade 1 LP only -- this is what my pup has, and my vet specifically recommended Cosequin to help lubricate his joints and reduce ligature inflammation so he can strengthen his muscles, reducing stress on the knee.

Another option that might help in the interim would be to have a little set of pet stairs or a small ramp that Pooka can climb to get onto couches, chairs, etc. so she doesn't have to jump up & down -- that sort of 'shock' on the knees is the worst thing ever when it comes to aggravating LP.
posted by divined by radio at 11:57 AM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: After taking a look at the PugVillage link, I pulled out the pet stairs (which the bunny was using, but absolutely doesn't need to use) and put them up against the ottoman, where she was doing most of her jumping. It took very little coaxing to get her to go up them the first time, and she seems to be thrilled with them.

I also plan on making an appointment to take her back to the vet to evaluate her grade, and seeing if the pet stairs help. Thanks!
posted by needlegrrl at 11:59 AM on May 30, 2013

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