Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella is a condition which can affect dogs in general and Toy breeds specifically, but is not thought to be an hereditary disease in the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.

Very occasionally a Wheaten has received this diagnosis which is usually caused by a congenital abnormality, but in a few cases the condition can be the result of environmental causes such as an accident or over exercising of puppies.

In this respect it is important that puppies are not allowed to run up and down stairs or to jump on or off furniture.

Wheaten puppies should be exercised:

  • up to six months - no more than ten minutes, twice daily
  • six to twelve months - no more than twenty minutes, twice daily

after that the bones and joints should be sufficiently mature to take normal exercise, which should be at least twenty minutes, twice daily coupled with with appropriate mental stimulation.

There are four grades of patella luxation and it is important for your vet to establish which one the dog has as the treatment is different for each grade.

Clinical signs:
  • Lameness
  • A skipping gait
  • Pain
  • Stiffness of the hind limb
  • Some dogs show only a single sign, whereas others show many signs of the condition.

Failure to treat the condition could lead to progressive debilitating arthritis of the joint.

The patella (commonly known as the kneecap) becomes displaced from its normal position which is over the centre of the lower part of the thighbone. The patella slides up and down in a groove in the femur, or thigh bone, when the knee bends or extends. f the patella is not positioned correctly, the leg cannot function properly.

The problem is caused by an abnormal development of the bones and joints when the dog is growing, especially an abnormal position of the tibia. This leads to a more than normal wear and tear of the joint and will always lead to arthritic changes in the long term. It can also cause other problems of the knee joint, such as torn cruciate ligaments.


An operation will be required to correct the position of the patella. Dogs usually recover quickly and can bear weight on the leg within 2 weeks. Arthritis will develop in the long term whether surgery is performed or not.