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D2003-21

Dear Daisy Dog

Rusty, our 3-year-old mixed-breed dog, does something funny with one of his back legs.

Sometimes when he’s playing in the back yard, he suddenly starts running on three legs. He holds up one of his back legs (I’m not sure which) for a minute or two, and then he runs normally – on four legs.

He seems to be doing this more often now than he did six months ago. Should we be concerned?

Daisy Responds

It sounds like Rusty has the same problem my golden retriever brother (and my human mother) had: a luxating patella. In English, that’s a dislocating kneecap.

The kneecap normally rides in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone), but it may pop out if one side of the groove isn’t high enough.

When his kneecap dislocates, Rusty holds his leg up. Some dogs’ kneecaps spontaneously slide back into the groove, and then they run normally – like Rusty.

Some dogs, particularly if they are small and have only infrequent episodes, can be treated with rest and medication to ease the discomfort and inflammation. Large dogs and those with frequent episodes – like my golden retriever brother – may need surgery to deepen the groove.

Ask your veterinarian to evaluate Rusty’s intermittent lameness or to refer you to an orthopedic specialist. to determine if limited vision is part of the problem.

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