Luxating Patellas and IGs
Rescue often is asked what issues are common in the Italian Greyhound breed. One of the most common issues we see are luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps. More often than not this condition is a genetic issue which worsens over time, but can sometimes be caused by a traumatic event.
When a Italian Greyhound has a slipped knee cap it will gradually become worse over time. The ligament in the knee will slip to the inside or outside of the knee, and at the beginning may pop in and out as the dog walks or runs. Over time, general wear and tear of the knee causes the ligament in the knee to become regularly displaced. When this happens the dog may either carry the leg bent and not touch it to the ground, or the leg may be at full extension always. When the leg is fully extended, the dog may try to carry it backwards or off to the side in order to walk comfortably. The dog may walk in a "stiff" manner with limited hip movement too, even if the hip may be perfectly fine.
Putting off a patella surgery will cause the leg to become permanently disabled due to muscle atrophy/or shrinkage, or over time cause significant pain, as arthritis develops in the knee and even hip. Many dogs with a major patella issue will carry the leg straight behind them which will cause the knee to upward causing the leg to be completely useless. In the most extreme cases where the dog is suspected to be in pain, amputation may be the best alternative. So, if your dog has luxating patella issues, it is better to have it addressed sooner rather than later.
Luxating Patella Surgery
An orthopedic vet will often be needed to perform a luxating patella surgery, although some other skilled vets may be willing to perform this complex surgery. The extent of knee surgery depends both the dogs bone structure and tension on the supporting ligaments. Sometimes a deeper groove is cut into the bone to allow the patella (knee cap) to seat itself, and preserve/support normal function. Other times they may also need to tighten up one or more of the ligaments that support the knee joint in order to create that snug fit and stability of the knee. Occasionally they may need to cut the leg bone and rotate it a bit in order to better support normal function.
Since the surgery to repair a luxating patella is quite involved, the dog will need to recuperate for a few months and be kept inactive during the recovery period. The surgery is similar to any other broken bone where the bones have to grow back together without added stress or motion to allow proper healing. So, keeping the dog in a kennel for many weeks is often needed, and separate from other dogs who may unintentionally injure the healing leg. It takes a few weeks for the bones to begin healing, but even after the first month activity needs to be greatly limited. Potty breaks should be given on-leash only and without any other dogs being present.
The biggest issue we see during surgery recovery is that the owners become overconfident and allow the dogs too much freedom too quickly. Dogs should not be allowed to jump on or off furniture, go up and down stairs, or engage in rough play with other pups. If the bone breaks or shatters post-surgery, a dog may face amputation of the leg. So, it is critical to limit follow your surgeon's instructions closely and not become overconfident before the healing process has fully completed.
Long-term prognosis for an Italian Greyhound who has a slipped knee repaired is excellent. They often are able to regain most or full use of the leg, stiff walking goes away, and they again are able to jump, run and play normally.