Your dapper little dog loves to jump and play. Unfortunately, slipped kneecaps, or patellar luxation, is a common hereditary issue in the Boston terrier. Mildly affected dogs probably won't need surgery, but if your dog's patellas start popping in and out, knee joint surgery can put him right.
Boston Terriers are active little dogs. They're fine companions for young and old alike, as long as they receive plenty of attention. Natural performers -- hey, they're born wearing tuxedos -- Bostons do well in agility, obedience and other canine sports. They're smart enough to pick up training quickly. Kneecap issues, common in the breed, can put a cramp in their style.
Normally, your Boston terrier's patella rests in a groove in his femur, the thigh bone. Patellar luxation occurs when he flexes his stifle, or knee, and the kneecap slips out of the groove. When it's a congenital problem, the groove is usually too shallow to properly accommodate the patella. It also results from traumatic knee injury. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, half of affected dogs suffer from patellar luxation in both knees. Symptoms include limping and obvious pain, but suspect a patella problem if your dog frequently stretching out a hind leg. He could be doing that because the stretching and straightening allow the patella to pop back into place.
Patellar luxation is gauged according to severity, graded 1 to 4. In Grade 1 luxation, your vet can manipulate the patella out of the groove and it automatically returns to its correct position when the vet releases it. The patella sometimes leaves the groove on its own with Grade 2 luxation, but manipulation can replace it. With Grade 3 luxation, the patella is constantly coming out of the groove but can be replaced with manipulation. With Grade 4 luxation, the patella is never in the groove and can't be manipulated back in. If untreated, lower-grade luxations get worse, causing pain and eventual arthritis in the limb.
Surgery can consist of deepening the thigh bone's groove so the patella more easily fits inside it, a procedure called sulcopasty. Your vet might fasten the patella on the outside of the tibia bone so it can't slide inward. The vet might reconstruct the soft tissues that surround the patella so those tissues are tighter on the opposite side. Severe cases could require cutting the tibia or femur for leg realignment.
After your buddy comes home, he'll need to take it easy for six weeks or so. He'll be able to put weight on his leg, but no jumping on furniture or anything else and no running around. Take him for low-key walks, as per your veterinarian's instructions. Your vet might also recommend a physical therapist or give you gentle exercises to do with your dog while he recovers. It could take three months or more until your dog resumes his normal, active lifestyle. While patellar luxation can recur after surgery, it usually isn't as bad as the initial problem.
- Boston Terrier Club of America: Boston Terrier Patellar Luxation
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons: Patellar Luxations
- petMD: Kneecap Dislocation in Dogs
- The Canadian Veterinary Journal: Patellar Luxation
- Davies Veterinary Specialists: Patellar Luxation
- Boston Terrier Club of America: About Bostons
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.