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Can chiropractic help my dog with luxating patella?

Updated: Apr 6

By: Kaitlyn Lackey DC cAVCA

Published: March 8, 2024

The stifle, akin to the human knee, can be a common painful area in smaller dogs. Unlike larger dogs, luxating patella is a common problem that can cause reoccurring joint pain in our smaller 4 legged companions.

In addition to traditional veterinary medicine, you might consider exploring complementary means of helping your dog be more comfortable. Complementary is an umbrella term that could include different modalities or treatments, such as: animal chiropractic, canine massage, rehabilitation, red light therapy, and more.

Animal chiropractic care involves identifying and correcting areas of improper motion in your pet's joints. Through restoring proper joint motion, an adjustment can reduce painful muscular compensation plus can aid in promoting proper nerve signaling between the body and brain.

When it comes to your canine companion- animal chiropractic can help to decrease discomfort, manage symptoms, and help slow down the wear and tear on your pet's joints.

What are symptoms of Luxating Patella?

👉🏻 Luxating patella is a common issue amongst smaller breed dogs.

Most commonly affected dog breeds include: chihuahuas, yorkies, pomeranians, maltese, rat terriers, and more.

In our experience, dogs with luxating patellas will often skip intermittently on the hind limb, hold the leg up during or after running, will be uncomfortable sitting, and may have difficulty or reluctance to jump.

Owners often will note awkward postures (such as bow-leggedness in the hind limbs) and sometimes popping or grinding when manipulating the hind limb at home. Please schedule a vet visit to have your animal evaluated for this condition if you suspect your animal may be dealing with knee pain!

What causes Luxating Patella?

👉🏻 Luxating patella can be multi-factorial. It may not be so simple as to say that your pet has "bad knees." Luxating patella is a tracking disorder. The patella (aka the kneecap) is a freely floating bone that resides in the patellar ligament. When this patella is out of the patellar groove, it is known to be "luxated." The most common luxation is for the patella to move to the inside part of the leg (known as medial patellar luxation or MPL.)

Your pet may have some abnormal anatomy that could contribute to the patella not staying in the correct place. Smaller dogs can be genetically predisposed to differences in the attachment of the quads muscle, bowing/deformity of the femur or tibia, and/or a shallow patellar groove. As your pet ages, arthritis of the knee joint can also complicate this problem further and make symptoms more prevalent.

Will animal chiropractic care help my dog with Luxating Patellas?

👉🏻 The "success" of animal chiropractic care can vary depending on the severity of the problem, the length of time a pet has been struggling with a complaint, and the quality of the provider.

Luxating patella is graded on a scale of 1 to 4.

Please visit a veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have this condition and to get a diagnosis of how severe the problem may be.

Grade 1: the patella is tracking mostly normal but may manually be luxated

Grade 2: the patella will sometimes track abnormally and spontaneously may

get stuck out of the groove but can be relocated manually Grade 3: the patella almost always tracks abnormally and is always stuck

outside the groove but can be relocated manually

Grade 4: the patella always tracks abnormally and cannot be relocated

manually. The greater the severity, the less possibility of response to conservative management.

Ongoing animal chiropractic care can help to improve alignment of your pet's anatomy to improve their knee tracking and prevent further wear and tear. It's also important to not only address the knees, but particularly other compensatory areas such as the pelvis, hips, and lower back due to chronic limp or lameness problems caused by your pet's knee pain.

It's important that when choosing care for your animal that you do your research. Not all providers are created equally!

When choosing an animal chiropractor, be sure to choose a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL.

Only veterinarians or chiropractors are eligible to undergo post graduate education in animal chiropractic. Upon completion of the coursework, these individuals may also prove proficiency via examination such as the tests offered by the American veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) or International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).

Common vernacular or abbreviations include:

  1. Certified animal chiropractor (CAC)

  2. Certified in veterinary chiropractic (CVC)

  3. Certified in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (CVSMT)

  4. Certified AVCA or IVCA (cAVCA, cIVCA)

A licensed, trained, and certified provider is going to be the most responsible choice when moving forward with animal chiropractic care.

You should avoid the following:

  • provider does not do a thorough evaluation

  • provider does not evaluate pre AND post treatment

  • provider uses excessive force and/or theatrics during treatment

  • pet is excessively uncomfortable or painful during treatment

  • provider cannot answer your questions about what they are doing

  • provider continues to treat without any signs of measurable improvement

  • provider cannot answer where they received training, their license #, or if they have insurance

It is advisable that you seek animal chiropractic care in supplement to your existing vet care.

Numerous conditions and unexplained symptoms can often be improved with animal chiropractic treatment, however, a primary care veterinarian should always be involved and routinely monitoring your animal for signs of degrading health status so that further diagnostics and/or interventions can be explored if necessary.

Across the United States there are different rules and laws about animal chiropractic care. In a select few states pets can see an animal chiropractor without first consulting a veterinarian... whereas in many other states an animal chiropractor may require a written referral or direct veterinary supervision. Please be mindful of this as it could delay your pet's accessibility to an appointment should they immediately be in need.

In Summary

It's important to remember that luxating patella is a common issue amongst small breed dogs.

Animal chiropractic can be a valuable complementary treatment to help mitigate alignment and tracking issues before they become painful problems.

It's important to choose a properly trained and certified provider in order to achieve the best outcome for your pet. I hope you consider adding an animal chiropractor to your animal's health care team!


About the author

Kaitlyn Lackey DC cAVCA

Many people don’t know that I’ve sustained 3 very serious head injuries due to horseback riding. 


When I sought medical treatment for these injuries, traditional medicine "failed me."


I'm very fortunate to have found chiropractic. Getting adjusted gave me my life back after I was struggling every day with dehabilitating migraines.


After seeing what it did for me, I thought: why isn’t this available to animals, too?

I decided against vet school and instead pursued chiropractic education.  I graduated Parker University in April of 2017 with 2 Bachelors and my Doctorate then later received my AVCA certification in June of 2017.

I practiced for 2 years on humans and then shifted my focus to offering chiropractic care for animals full time in 2019. I now travel across North Dallas offering care to all sorts of animals.

I continue to do all that I can to practice evidence informed and patient centric chiropractic care to guarantee that my clients receive the best results.



We operate in full compliance with all laws and regulations. Our services are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any specific illness or condition and should only be used as a complement to routine veterinary and/or medical care. Chiropractic may provide support and encourage the body into its most optimal state of health. The content provided herein is informational only and is not to be construed as medical or veterinary advice.


I want to let you know you came to the right place for complementary options for your pet!

We are certified by the AVCA which is a top notch and rigorous certification program of 200+ hours class time followed by a written and practical board exam. We take 10 yearly hours of continuing education because we value knowing the most in order to provide the best.

When choosing chiropractic for your pet, choose someone licensed, trained, and certified.

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