Q: My nine-month-old Toy Poodle was recently diagnosed with grade one luxating patella on her left hind knee. There wasn’t much the vet could do except to prescribe some supplements. However, I am concerned that the condition might deteriorate over time as she is relatively young and extremely hyper. What are some of the holistic treatments I can explore to prevent her condition from worsening?
A: Unfortunately, luxating patella is a very common condition in small dog breeds, particularly Toy Poodles. It is a conformational issue that is caused by a bowlegged hind-limb gait. The muscular forces transferred from the thigh muscles to the lower leg utilise the kneecap as a pulley system, and if these forces are not completely vertical, there is a tendency for a pull on the patella to the medial or inner side of the knee, which causes the instability.
A grade one condition is only mild, which means a slight laxity in the position of the kneecap. However, you are correct: if left unchecked, this can result in long-term degenerative arthritis of the knee. Over time, there is a possibility that the instability might increase through to grade four. This happens when the patella is permanently out of position. My experience with treating this condition using natural treatments has not been fully rewarding. As it is a biomechanical issue, I do find that a surgical approach is often the best solution. For a grade one diagnosis, there is a fairly simple corrective procedure that can be performed. This can be done when your dog is being neutered or spayed, to avoid an additional anaesthesia. A simple tightening of the joint capsule is often all that is required to stabilise the kneecap.
While supplements, like glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate, or natural sources such as shark cartilage powder, will help to delay or prevent the deterioration of the condition, they will not correct the actual luxation. Acupuncture can assist in strengthening the ligaments of the patella. Certain injections, designed to cause a slight irritant effect and create scar tissue, may also help in preventing dislocation. However, none of the alternatives are as effective as the corrective procedure mentioned above. Ultimately, if you want the best treatment possible for your Toy Poodle, I would suggest that you discuss the option of surgery with your local vet.
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