Is luxating patella an adoption deal breaker?
May 15, 2017 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering adopting a dog who may have luxating patella. Is this an adoption deal breaker for someone who doesn't have a lot of money?

She was adopted for a day and returned, because she snapped at someone who was pulling on her leg. (I would probably want to smack someone who was pulling on my leg if it was causing me pain, so I'm less concerned about this.)

The person was pulling on her leg because she was limping and they were trying to figure out why.

She is intermittently favoring one back leg, but the people at the rescue hadn't seen it since she came back.

The rescue volunteers think it could be luxating patella, but they don't know for sure.

I don't have any experience with this, so I'm trying to gauge if this is an adopting deal breaker. Most dogs end up with arthritis, so that doesn't really factor into the decision. Care credit is an option if surgery becomes necessary, but if that's likely, I may decide not to adopt her.
posted by lemonwheel to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
A picture, because I know the rules

Also, you aren't my vet/a vet, antecdotal information is fine.
posted by lemonwheel at 8:46 PM on May 15

How old is this dog, and how experienced are the rescue at diagnosing these issues? My lab recently had a limp we thought was a torn ACL or a luxating patella, and turns out it's osteosarcoma, which is expensive but still terminal if you treat it and more quickly terminal if you don't. Limps can be a lot of things in dogs and it's probably worth having it diagnosed by a professional (probably with X-rays) before adopting.
posted by olinerd at 8:58 PM on May 15

Get the dog if you like the dog's personality and temperament and think she's a good match for your home and then get the surgery (if necessary). Dogs recover astoundingly well from surgery, all they need is you to hang out with.
posted by stewiethegreat at 9:03 PM on May 15

I really hate to discourage anyone from adopting, but you have to anticipate that your dog is going to need serious care at some point for something, so if it's just not possible for you to afford anything like such a surgery, this may, sadly, not be the right time for you to adopt.

Luxating patella is almost always treated with surgery, I think.
posted by praemunire at 10:16 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

Yes that is an expensive surgery and rehab so not an appropriate dog for someone without a lot of money. And time. Because that's a strict rehab with crate confinement for a while.

Don't feel bad about it and don't let anyone talk you into adopting her because the universe will provide. It's probably three or four grand total and it should be done if it can be on a larger dog. The rescue will more than likely be able to find her a more suitable home.

Then when you adopt a dog wither get pet insurance or take the equivalent amount of money and put it in a savings account each month. $50 a month set aside, starting with a younger healthy dog should see you through.
posted by fshgrl at 10:30 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]

I love our dog so much and wouldn't trade him for anything. That said, I wish the rescue we adopted him from had been a little more up front about how expensive the luxating patella corrective surgery is. We paid around $3,500 for it IIRC and that didn't include ongoing rehab afterwards, which they recommended. Like I said, he is the apple of my eye and it wouldn't have changed my mind about adopting him, but we might have done a better job saving for it if we had known more.
posted by lieber hair at 11:01 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Our 50lb Weimaraner had a previously undiagnosed luxating patella when adopted him. It required surgery that cost in the $3-4K range as fshgrl said. The docs said there was no non-surgical option.

That was in 2010 and he's doing quite well, only a scar to show from it. It was a very long recovery process, he was in a cast for several weeks, then very slowly allowed to do more and more. No stairs for a long time which was tough in our rowhouse. My husband and slept on an air mattress for a few months so we could stay with him on the first floor.

If she's in pain as the snapping indicates, she needs treatment and if they are right about the luxating patella that likely means surgery (IANAV). If you do adopt this cutie, know that it could be a very big financial and time commitment. I'm sure she's worth it, but be realistic about what you can take on.
posted by jshort at 11:06 PM on May 15

One of my dogs has luxating patella in both legs (stages 2 and 3 when we adopted her 7 years ago; now stages 3 and 4). She doesn't seem to mind it at all and we haven't had to consider surgery yet - she runs and jumps and plays without issue; sometimes one of her legs sort of goes out if she runs around a corner but she doesn't act like it's painful at all. The only thing we have to do right now, per the vet, is keep her weight down (we've had a few vets in different states/practices opine the same).

So, it all depends on whether the luxating patella actually causes the pup to be in pain or reduce their quality of life. Having it in both knees hasn't slowed down our pup at all in 7 years (she's 10ish now), but the potential for surgery in the future is something we always have to keep in mind.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:03 AM on May 16

I came her to say that luxating patella doesn't always mean fact it rarely has in my experience with smaller dogs.

I have fostered hundreds of dogs for an organization that deals with smaller dogs, both young dogs and seniors. Luxating patella is a known issue for many small breeds including the chihuahua/rat terrier breeds that might be in your dog's history.

The rescue I volunteer for has excellent vet access and an excellent surgeon, and yet our surgeon seldom recommend surgery for luxating patella for smaller breeds. The threshold he uses for surgery is pain, and I haven't had a smaller dog foster experience pain as a result of a knee issue. When it comes up, our vet reiterates that the surgery isn't terribly expensive as far as surgery's go, for smaller dogs, and recommends that we mention the potential issue to future adopters as yours has done.

All dogs can have medical issues come up, so it's always something to think about when adopting a dog. But chis and rat terriers tend to be on the healthier side, though they can have the dental issues that many smaller breeds tend to have. If you decide to go forward, consider investigating the Care Credit option that may allow you to pay off a medical thing like a dental cleaning or a future surgery over time.
posted by answergrape at 7:16 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

I had a dog with luxating patella and it came and went. Our vet never pushed the surgery, and as she got older we eventually treated it with Cosequin, another chewable (CoQ10?), and the J/D Prescription Diet food. In the end, she just stopped being able to walk or stand at all and we had to put her down, but at that point she was clearly at the end of her life in other ways as well (deaf, lethargy, some dementia) - it was just the last straw at that point. And she was a good year past the normal age range for her breed.

If the issue comes and goes and doesn't otherwise interfere with her quality of life, I would say it's not a deal-breaker. Can you get a vet's opinion on whether surgery would be recommended for this particular dog?
posted by Mchelly at 8:40 AM on May 16

My dog is about to turn 5, and I've had her for almost 2 years. She's a mix of small breeds, all of whom are prone to luxating patellas (in fact, she's kind of the inverse of your little one, coloring-wise: ).

About 6 months after I adopted her, she tripped when running full speed and started limping. LP was the diagnosis. She was on painkillers and strict crate rest for about 6 weeks, which was tough. I also started her on Cosequin on the advice of the vet, and we got serious about getting her weight down where it should have been.

After about 3 weeks, she was clearly feeling way better, and she hasn't had a problem since. I think hers was diagnosed as a grade 1-2. So if you are able to get any kind of clear diagnosis, and it's not too bad a grade, I wouldn't be nearly so hesitant, especially if she's of a normal weight, which she looks to be.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:35 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

Whether or not the dog needs surgery is dependent on the severity of the luxation. The dog will almost certainly need to be kept lean and fit, and a good joint support regimen should be implemented (omega fatty acids, AKBA, ASU, etc.). You should also get an independent vet examination done (by a vet good at orthopedics) to be sure it's not bilateral, which is the most common scenario. Some dogs do fine with luxating patellas, but some need surgery to be comfortable. More info.

You shouldn't feel bad about passing up this dog, however you should also consider that almost every pet dog is going to have an incident at some point that will cost in excess of $1000 to treat. Most of the time, if a patella surgery is done well (do NOT price shop for orthopedic surgery), and the dog is kept lean and fit and is kept on a good joint support regimen, the dog will have a normal lifespan and be comfortable.
posted by biscotti at 1:47 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]

I had a 5.5 pound Pomeranian with luxating patella in both rear legs. He was intermittently refusing to put weight on his left knee but when the vet watched him walk she said "I thought you said it was the right leg".

In 1999 it cost $1000 to do both knees at once. They said doing one at a time risked comprising recovery of the first knee, more serious damage to the second, and generally costing more money and recovery time (not to mention pain and suffering).

He seemed to be in much less pain within a few days than he was before the surgery. We went on a week long semi-camping trip trip (SCA) while he was still in the casts. I just carried him in a sling and the worst result in the end was that every time I dressed up in garb he expected to be carried everywhere again.

Sadly I did not yet have digital video capabilities when I learned that a determined Pom can walk about 10 steps on his front legs alone, casted back legs hoisted up in the air, before falling over sideways.
posted by buildmyworld at 1:47 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

Vet, not your vet.

Here is some reputable information for pet parents about luxating patellas.

Luxating patellas are managed medically or surgically based upon their grade or severity:

Grade I: The kneecap can be moved out of place manually but will fall back into its natural position once the manipulator lets go.

Grade 2: Same thing except that the kneecap does not move back to its normal position when the manipulator lets go. These dogs are likely to progress to arthritis development and should be considered for surgery to prevent conformational damage. There is some controversy over whether grade 2 dogs should have surgery.

Grade 3: The patella is out of place all the time but can be manipulated back into its normal position manually (though it will not stay there).

Grade 4: The patella is not only out of place all the time but cannot even be manipulated back into place by hand. Such a dog has extreme difficulty extending his knees and walks with his knees bent virtually all the time in a somewhat crouched position. In this situation, the rotation in the long bones that accompanies the luxation will interfere with surgical correction and total resolution of the lameness may not be possible.

Has this dog been evaluated by a vet so that their patellas can be graded? The severity of the malformation will determine treatment and prognosis. This should be done by a veterinarian, preferably an orthopedist, not a layperson from the rescue.

Medical management includes maintaining the dog at a healthy, normal weight and treating symptomatically for arthritis in the affected limb. As others have mentioned, corrective surgery is very expensive.
posted by Seppaku at 2:00 PM on May 16

Wow - She is gorgeous!

Lots of good advice about Luxating Patellas but the problem is that's just a guess by rescue volunteers. I had a dog with a tumor on his leg so that was my guess as a non medical person who volunteers with SPCA. Just another guess based on nothing but my past experience, so not something you should take seriously.

I think you can't plan based on their diagnosis. Does the rescue have a foster program where you foster the dog and they provide medical treatment? Then you could foster and later adopt her. At the very least, they shouldn't be adopting out a dog until his medical condition is assessed by a vet.

That said, I adopted a dog who had a leg problem/limp (as seen here) from an independent rescue. Too smitten to be concerned about vet bills and it turned out to be just a bad sprain. He's OK now and we're living happily ever after.
posted by mulcahy at 7:07 PM on May 16

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