Does your dog occasionally hop or skip when running? You may believe this is just another one of their quirks, but this could in fact indicate an underlying problem with their patella (knee cap). Small breed dogs are more commonly affected by this condition called Medial Patella Luxation (MPL). This is when the knee cap slips out of place, causing the knee to lock and not be able to move freely.
If left untreated, this condition can lead to early arthritis and pain or even lead to rupture of the cruciate ligament, making the knee very unstable.
There are different severities of this condition, ranging from occasional hopping/skipping without pain, to permanent dislocation of the patella. You may hear your vet talking about grades of medial patella luxation from I-IV. Grade I is the mildest and grade IV is the most severe, which is classified by the knee cap being permanently out of place.
Animals affected by a milder degree can benefit from early intervention and rehabilitation to strengthen the limb muscles and help maintain normal alignment of the patella.
For those pets where the condition is advanced, surgery may be indicated to stabilise the patella. Just like people, after any major orthopaedic surgery, there will be a period of strict activity restriction along with a rehabilitation program to get them back on their feet.