patellar luxation: what you should know about this knee problem in chihuahuas

nadia chihuahua facts, chihuahua health concerns 32 Comments

the chihuahua breed is known to have the knee condition known as patellar luxation and is one of the most common health problems associated with chihuahuas.   the knee is a complex structure consisting of muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and bones.  these components must align properly and interact harmoniously in order to function properly.  three bones are included in the knee: the femur, the tibia, and the patella (kneecap).

the lower front portion of the femur (thigh bone) in a normal chihuahua has two bony ridges that form a fairly deep groove in which the patella is supposed to slide up and down.  these structures limit the patella’s movement to one restricted place, and in doing so, control the activity of the quadriceps muscle.  the entire system is constantly lubricated by joint fluid.  it works so that there is total freedom of motion between the structures.

diagram of the anatomy of a normal knee cap

diagram of the anatomy of a normal knee cap

patellar luxation (or trick knee, subluxation of patella, or floating patella), occurs when the patella, or kneecap, dislocates or moves out of its normal location.

when the patella is luxated in a chihuahua, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not prominent, and a too-shallow groove is created.  in a chihuahua with shallow grooves, the patella will luxate (jump out of the groove) sideways, especially toward the inside.  this can causes the leg to ‘lock up’ with the foot held off the ground.

chihuahua with a luxating patella on both hind legs

chihuahua with a luxating patella on both hind legs
(like teaka the famous chihuahua has as seen in the video above)

when the patella luxates from the groove of the femur, it usually cannot return to its normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length.  this is why a chihuahua may be forced to hold their leg up for a few minutes after this occurs because the muscles are contracted, the patella is luxated from its correct position and the joint is held in a flexed or bent position.  pain is caused by the knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur.

patellar luxation in chihuahuas can have both genetic causes, or environmental causes (luxation due to injury).  if it appears at an early age, it’s likely to be due to genetic causes.  environmental sources of injury can include too much jumping (i.e. jumping off furniture), or too much stress on the patella and surrounding ligaments (ie. when a chihuahua dances on its rear legs).  this is especially dangerous when a chihuahua is a puppy in stages of early development.

adult chihuahuas can also damage their kneecap by a forceful hit or blow.  with age, looseness might also be recognized, especially in chihuahuas that are overweight as there is constant pressure on surrounding ligaments.

symptoms of patellar luxation includes skipping, yelping when in pain, holding the rear leg up for a short time as they walk or run or rear-leg weakness.  if left uncorrected, the condition will result in serious wear of the patellar ridges where the groove becomes very shallow resulting in both arthritis and in the more serious cases, permanent crippling.

if your chihuahua does have patellar luxation, see your veterinarian for options to help alleviate symptoms.  the use of supplements such as glucosamine may be helpful and it’s recommended that you keep your chihuahua lean and exercised to keep the leg muscles strong.  some people have also anecdotally reported that CBD products have helped their dog with pain and anxiety.

depending on how severe the condition is, it may or may not require surgery.  if required, your chihuahua will recover quickly with complete recovery in as early as thirty days.  breeding chihuahuas with this disorder is not recommended.  chihuahuas affected still make for wonderful pets and those that do require surgery usually lead perfectly normal lives without any restrictions on activity.

“get this information and more in an ebook delivered right to your inbox!”

the amazing ebook, caring for chihuahuas made easy, breed information, health care and nutrition teaches you about common chihuahua health problems and how to properly care for such a small dog!  it also teaches you how to extend the life span of your chihuahua!

below is a sample page from the section on knee problems!

patellar luxation in chihuahuas: what you need to know!

related:  what is a teacup chihuahua?

what’s the difference between a deerhead and an apple head chihuahua?


chihauhua clothes sale

references: – drs. foster & smith, inc.

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Comments 32

  1. Michelle And tiffi

    I bought my Tiffi Chi when she was 6 mon old, previous owner said she was going to breed her buy decided she needed to down size so I bought her! I took her to the vets and they informed me my girl has this in both legs and my need surgery and she also has large open space in her skull, the vet told me if a pencil falls on head head she WIll die!! Tiffis not yet a yr old but she might need that surgery so I am glad to read how other babies are doing after it! I am very happy the breeber changed her mind I love my Tiffany!

  2. Stacey chapman

    Hi all, my chihuahua is about 1 year, about 3 months ago he had surgery on his knee as he has a luxating patella surgery went well and now he other one has popped out and we have to get surgery on that one it’s around 2 grand each leg. I will certainly reccomend your dog getting this done!

  3. Marion Low

    Oliver my 9 year old long haired chi has this problem. The vet want to operate and put a pin in his back leg. II am so worried, he is not a small boy – about 11 lbs, but not fat – has just has a bigger body than teacup types. Do I put his through this op??

  4. misty

    i got my new chihuahua a few months ago she is 2 years old, i noticed a crooked leg, but she didnt seem bothered then i noticed when she ran it was lifted in the air, still no signs of discomfort, i took her to the vet he could pull the leg strait and pop it back in, said she could live with it or have surgery. she is 3lbs. so i was afraid of surgery, they reasured me that even small types of animals have surgery and the recovery would be quick, i want to fix her and chip her so im doing it all at once, i live in missouri so maybe thats why my vet said no more then $500 for knee and i didnt ask how much extra to add the other proceedures, but the cost for just a spay is $165 for my other chihuahua.

  5. linda

    the color green works great on knee problems on humans as well as animals. the color turquoise is an acute alternative for all sudden pains and aches. Use turquoise after the green for all infections. THE LAMP COMES with FIVE COLOR GELS THAT MAKE TWELVE WONDERFUL COLORS, EACH COLOR CORRECTS ANY CONDITION IN ALL LIVING THINGS.INCLUDED IS A GUIDE BOOK THAT WILL TELL YOU HOW TO USE EACH COLOR. CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE, YOU WILL BE AMAZED. [email protected]

  6. lorna

    hi, my tcup chi is 1 yr old and 2lbs. our vet has said he cant have surgery as he is too small and it is pointless as will prob not work. some days he cant even move out of his cage but on others he is full of life. the bad days are starting to outwigh the good though and he is alreay on daily steroids. Does anyone know what is the best option for him? Some days i have to carry him outside tot oilet and he has started to be snappy around people, even our children as he is frightened.

  7. delru

    Our chi had the surgery when she was less than a year old. Since then, there have been episodes of a snapping sound, she has limited movement and favors it a bit. after a day or so, she’s gets back to normal – until a few days ago. Now she’s yelping and has very limited mobility. This is in the same leg! Taking her to a different vet today to see what can be done. So sad!

  8. Jeanne


  9. Ashley

    Ever since I adopted my Chihuahua Chloe (now 19 month old), I’ve noticed that she limps quite often. Although she never seems to be in any pain whatsoever. I’ve taken her to the vet twice for checkups (the office we go to has to vets and she’s been checked by both) and have mentioned her limping and the vet always checks her hind legs but doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong other than her jumping off of places (which she rarely does because I don’t want her to get hurt). I’m not sure if I should get a third opinion or not. She isn’t a tea cup chihuahua, and her legs seem normal when she stands (not bowlegged). She’s a happy dog, and is very energetic most of the day, I’m not sure what to do.
    Any suggestions?

  10. Collette

    I have 4 Chi’s and 2 of them have had the surgery. They did so much better after and the recovery time is not at all bad. I wouldn’t wait to get surgery as they can cause more damage to the tendons which will require a longer surgery to fix along with the knee. With that also the price goes up a little. I had 2 different places do the knee on my dogs and the price range can be from 1,100 to 2,500 for the surgery. I will tell you it is well worth it.

  11. Adri

    Hi all,
    I think surgery is scary but it does helps… what causes pain is that the knee pops out, the surgery will stop that… if the legs are already twisted that won’t be corrected, but as I said, if teh vet prevents teh knee to pop out then you are helping your dog already, so when they run the knee won’t cause them the pain that is causing them know when it pops

  12. Dixie

    I just adopted a rescue dog, approximately 3years old and he definitely has patellar luxation, I think it may be a bit more severe than is hown in the diagram, though. The left hind foot is also turned in. He walks bow legged, but he does not cry or anything, yet.
    He can stand fully erect when he is curious about something, so i am thinking it is a birth defect that he has learned to live with. But if this is going to cause long-term suffering I think it would be best to address this situation as quickly as possible.
    When they have had the surgery, are they catsed? How long does the recovery take and are there special exercises that they can do afterward to prevent this from reverting? Also, what is the success rate of this operation and is it worth it to put my new baby in such pain when he has already experienced a world of abuse in his very short life. He is already neutered (That is the one great thing about rescue pets) so he won’t be passing this on to future generations.

  13. Post
    famous chihuahua editor

    Hi Debbie,

    What Lola is very common. This is the founder of I’m going to post your comment at the famous chihuahua facebook fanpage so others can offer you advice. Teaka the famous chihuahua has luxating patella syndrome as well but we have been able to avoid surgery by keeping her active so that her back legs stay strong and robust even though they are luxating. She seems to do well with a nice long walk everyday as well as playtime with her ball and other toys. The priority has to be keeping her active so that her back legs stay nice and strong so that means exercising them daily. Please check out facebook page for comments to your problem. thanks!

  14. debbie garner

    i just took my lola to the vet; she is 14 months. i’d noticed she “favored” one hind leg a tad for the last month or so but she is so ACTIVE i just “watched”. then yesterday she was running like a wild thing in circles while we were working in the yard and suddenly yelped and stopped right there. we kenneled her and babied her; vet 1st thing this a.m. yup, patella. i figured as much but we returned w/glucosimine and rimadyle but i’m already preparing for the inevitable surgery. i would like to know anyone’s experience on this. should i have it done NOW while she is young and the injury/condition is relatively new or wait?

  15. connie

    I just took my Rex for check up today regarding this same issue, Patellar Luxation is when the knee cap pops in and out of place. Keep dog lean and exercised, and give glucosamine. (I got this from vet) that will help. There are also four stages of discomfort. The first stages, vet can put knee back into place without surgery. Later degree would require surgery. Vet said about $1,500.00

  16. Michelle

    My chihuahua has this problem as well. I noticed it when he started limping the day before yesterday I knew something was wrong because he would lift his leg and try to run and he looked scared. So I took him to the vet the same day. And sure enough the vet told me his kneecap pops n and out of place. I was soo sad but now after reading this I feel better his 1year 4months and by everything ive been reading the younger the better right? The only thing im worried about is that he is skinny and doesnt eat much. Will that make his surgery a higher risk? Im scared. Tomorrow we are going to get some x-rays and set a date for surgery. By the way does anyone know more less how much it will cost? He is 4lbs 3oz..

  17. Adri

    I suggest to both Samantha and Carla to get the dogs to the vet and take X rays… see how or what the problem is… I took too long prior getting Lola to the vet and now, evenn after the surgery her back legs are kind of twisted… she is active and she doesn’t complaint about pain so all I do now is that I give her dog’s glucosamine… so before make you chi’s run for balls check if you are not causing them to hurt themselves

  18. samantha

    my chihuahua has been shaking alot lately and when we took him to the vet they said he most likely injured himself while playing with our other dog. his back legs get weird sometimes when he walks can this be why? are xrays recomended?

  19. Carla

    My chi Shorty suffers from this. Normally he is full of energy, chasing and retrieving balls. However, he squeals when his kneecap pops out, then he starts shaking and has to be held and consoled, until he realizes he has actually popped it back into place. Very infrequent, every few months or so……the surgery sounds worse?

  20. Adri

    My Chihuahua had this surgery on both legs, they made the groove deeper and put the patella in place by stitching tendon around… she kept bendind one of the legs 2 months after the surgery and they told me it was because the ligament was broken… so she had surgery to correct that 3 weeks a go but she keeps bending the leg so I guess I will just leave her alone now… I don’t want to make her go for a third one

  21. vi

    my doggy was just diagnosed with this. his vet feels he should do well on Hills Science J/d diet since he responds well to antiinflammatories.

  22. Franco

    The next monday my chihui Hummer (11 months) will be in surgery room for solving a patellar luxation.
    Veterinary assure me that all will be okay.
    I hope, even if Iam very anxious.

  23. Jemma

    Oh, the terrible problems with luxating patellas. Jemma has a mild form of this. Very, very minor – the vets can’t even pop her kneecap out of place, but she skips once in a while during her walks at the beginning.

    She has been taking CT Support:

    It’s only been a week and I think we’re seeing good results already, but I won’t say for certain for at least a few more weeks.

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