Locomotor system

A healthy musculoskeletal system allows your pet to enjoy all of its movements without pain or difficulty.

Luxating patella

Luxating patella is a condition that occurs when the kneecap slides out of place, getting dislocated from the joint. Each time the kneecap slides out of place, the cartilage becomes increasingly more damaged. If the problem persists and does not receive veterinary care, the damage causes excruciating pain and eventually triggers osteoarthritis. While it occurs most frequently in smaller dog breeds, cats and larger dogs are still susceptible. Luxating patella can be an acquired condition or can exist at birth. Most cases are believed to be genetic so pets with confirmed instances of luxating patella are encouraged to not be used for breeding.

Any pet with a suspected luxating patella should undergo weight management and light exercise to prevent obesity as excess weight can cause increased pressure on joints, worsening an existing condition. The symptoms a pet exhibits will vary depending on their particular level of pain tolerance; some pets might simply freeze in place until the kneecap moves back into position, while others may vocally express their pain.

Symptoms of luxating patella:

  • Extending one leg for a period of time prior to quick movements
  • Favoring a particular limb
  • Hesitant to jump up on things or move hastily
  • Shaking of a particular leg
  • "Skipping" (running while holding one leg off the ground)
  • Sudden lameness in a limb with quick recovery
  • Temporary paralysis of one or multiple legs

Diagnosing luxating patella

During your pet’s exam the veterinarian can often determine a luxating patella simply through manually manipulating the kneecap. Depending on the severity of pain and based on the symptoms you describe your pet experiencing, sedation might be necessary for the vet to fully manipulate the kneecap and perform this diagnosis. In some cases, supplementary X-rays might also be recommended to visualize the joint and help with treatment or surgical planning.

In an effort to prevent further damage to joints, pet owners should never manipulate the kneecap or joints on their own. Doing so could worsen their pet’s suffering and cause additional harm to cartilage.

Classifications of luxating patella

There are four different classifications that veterinarians use to judge the gravity of a pet’s luxating patella. The system ranks pets’ symptoms with numbers ranging from 1 to 4 with 1 being the least severe and 4 being the most severe. The following is a list of each pain level and what the number signifies:

  1. Kneecap can be manually popped out of place, or can pop out on its own. Pops back into place on its own.
  2. Kneecap pops out on its own, but occasionally needs to be manually popped back into place.
  3. Kneecap sits outside of groove a majority of the time, but can be manually popped back into place. However, it will not stay in place very long.
  4. Kneecap sits outside of groove entirely. Cannot be manually popped back into place.

How is luxating patella treated?

After properly determining the severity of your pet’s luxating patella, the veterinarian will discuss the various methods of treatment available. There are both surgical and non-surgical methods of treatment. Often, pet owners who opt against surgery find that their pet’s condition worsens and must eventually undergo surgery to fix the problem.

Non-surgical treatment involves managing pain by administering anti-inflammatories (non-steroid), which helps lessen discomfort and reduce inflammation. Along with a medicated diet, exercise, and a physical therapy routine, pet’s that have type 1 or type 2 luxating patella often find that this method of pain management helps strengthen the quadriceps muscles and provides relief from pain.

There are several surgical methods that can help alleviate pain. The most common procedures involve one of the following: reconstructing the soft tissues surrounding the knee joint which helps support the kneecap; deepening the groove in the femur bone that the kneecap rests within; or securing the kneecap to the outside of the bone to prevent it from sliding. If you opt for a surgical treatment for your pet, the veterinarian will further discuss the various options and will review which method is best for your pet’s particular case. As with most severe conditions, with more acute cases of luxating patella, surgery is the preferred method of treatment.

If you notice any questionable symptoms in your pet, contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an exam.


Arthritis is a common degenerative disease that occurs in a pet’s joints. It slowly destroys the cartilage between bones, causing inflammation and chronic pain. Given our experience and familiarity with cases of arthritis, we can properly diagnose your pet with the correct type and cause, as well as develop an appropriate treatment plan to help manage pain.

There are several different types of arthritis including degenerative joint diseases that are resultant of stress on joints or are caused by malformation of joints; inflammatory joint diseases that are hereditary or caused by bacterial, fungal, or tick-borne illnesses; and idiopathic diseases where the cause is unknown. Regardless of your pet’s type of arthritis, our veterinarian is here to help formulate a treatment plan and ease suffering.

Symptoms of arthritis:

  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Difficulty jumping up on furniture
  • Difficulty walking longer distances
  • Favoring particular limbs (namely when they get up from a resting position)
  • Hesitant to eat hard, dry food
  • Hesitant to rise from a resting position
  • Lethargy
  • Limping
  • Stiff in the morning
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unwillingness to sit or refusal to stand

How is arthritis treated?

Unfortunately arthritis isn’t curative, but there are ways that you can help prevent your pet from acquiring arthritis at a young age. Because the most prevalent types of arthritis are influenced by obesity, regular exercise and a healthy diet are essential. Maintaining a healthy weight is the best preventative strategy in prolonging the onset of arthritis.

If your pet is already suffering from arthritis, there are several methods of treatment that can help relieve pain. For obese pets that suffer from arthritis, the first step is to monitor weight loss to reduce stress being placed on joints. Supplements can also be used to aide in pain relief. Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, chondroitin, fatty acid supplements, and glucosamine can all aid in relieving inflammation and reducing pain.

For pet owners who prefer natural relief for their pets, there are homeopathic treatments available. Cayenne, ginger, ginseng, guggul, and milk vetch are all natural plants or spices that can be added to your pet’s diet to offer relief from arthritis.

If you have questions about arthritis, or think your pet might be suffering from arthritis and want to seek treatment, contact our office today.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is caused by malformation or degeneration of the elbow joint and is very common in larger dog breeds but rarely affects cats or small dogs. Most pets inherit the disease, which is first noticeable when they are younger, between the ages of 4 and 10 months old. However, some pets do not show signs of elbow dysplasia until late adulthood. Dysplasia can be characterized by bony fragments in the joint, elbow incongruity, or severe arthritic changes. All can be managed with proper veterinary care. If you think your pet might be suffering from elbow dysplasia, contact our office to schedule an exam. We can start your pet’s treatment plan right away!

Some of the most susceptible breeds include:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Mastiffs
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Newfoundlands
  • Chow Chows
  • Rottweilers
  • English Setters
  • Saint Bernards
  • German Shepherds
  • Shar-Peis
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Springer Spaniels

What symptoms will my pet exhibit if they have elbow dysplasia?

  • Flipping of feet when walking or running
  • Holding elbows outward from chest
  • Inclination to hold painful limb out and away from the body
  • Noticeable pain when extending or flexing elbow
  • Reduced range of motion during walks or play
  • Swelling near the elbows
  • Weakness that worsens with movement and exercise

Living with elbow dysplasia

An initial diagnosis is necessary prior to any treatment; X-rays are usually taken to ensure that elbow dysplasia is the cause of the pet’s pain. Managing pain caused by elbow dysplasia is absolutely probable. There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options available with positive and negative aspects of both options.

Surgery is one treatment option that typically provides a sort of permanent relief for elbow dysplasia sufferers. However, if there are multiple defects in the joint and the defects are severe, the surgery can prove less successful, and a dog can still develop degenerative arthritis.

For dogs who are not good candidates for surgery or whose owners opt against it, traditional therapy involves a combination of weight control, moderate exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications. Additional therapies might be suggested, depending on a dog's current health status. For severely overweight dogs, hydrotherapy might be recommended to alleviate additional joint stress, and allow for weightless, no-impact fitness until significant weight loss is seen. These traditional therapies are more of an "elbow dysplasia management", as they will not cure the disease and will have to be incorporated throughout the remainder of the pet's lifespan.

If you have any questions about elbow dysplasia or the treatment options we offer, please contact our office.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development or degeneration of the hip joint with regards to pelvis and femur size or shape. The problem frequently coincides with Osteoarthritis. Most often, pet owners don’t notice the subtle differences in their pet’s hips because they appear normal, while internally, they develop differently.

Being one of the most common skeletal diseases among dogs, hip dysplasia usually affects large and giant breeds. Though it is less common in cats, hip dysplasia is relatively common among Persian cats and Maine Coons. It can affect both male and female and is believed to be a genetically inherited disease. For this reason, we do not recommend breeding pets that have been positively diagnosed with hip dysplasia, nor do we recommend breeding any parent whose offspring has received a positive diagnosis, as the disease is likely to reoccur within each litter.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Bunny hops when running or climbing stairs
  • Clicking noise coming from hips during movement
  • Narrow stance of hind legs
  • Hip area is sensitive to touch
  • Reluctant to get up
  • Scoots across floors
  • Stiffness when standing up from a resting position, or increased stiffness in the morning and after naps
  • Sways when walking
  • Walks with a limp

Pets that grow at a rapid pace or are of predisposed breeds are at an increased risk for hip dysplasia. We would like owners to pay special attention to these pets, especially during their early and elderly years.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

If you suspect your pet might have hip dysplasia, you should first schedule an evaluation. During the exam, the veterinarian will perform a physical assessment complete with a urinalysis and blood work. X-rays are also performed to accurately diagnose the disease. An exact diagnosis requires precise positioning of the hips by our skilled radiography technicians.

After a positive diagnosis, the veterinarian will discuss appropriate treatment options with you. While hip dysplasia is not curable, there are surgical and non-surgical treatment methods that can help reduce patient discomfort and improve quality of life.

Treating hip dysplasia

Both surgical and non-surgical treatment methods for hip dysplasia are intended to lessen the discomfort caused by hip dysplasia.

Non-surgical: Some non-surgical treatment options include weight management, nutritional supplements, and anti-inflammatories. Often, obese hip dysplasia sufferers have increased pressure placed on their joints due to excess weight. After restricting food and implementing light exercise, weight loss can reduce the burden placed on the joints, allowing some relief. Natural supplements that include glucosamine can help a dog’s cartilage and relieve pain, especially when combined with an anti-inflammatory. While liver toxicity is always a concern, check-up exams should be maintained to monitor the levels of supplements.

Surgical: There are several femur and hip modification surgeries that can be recommended for severe cases of hip dysplasia. The most common type of surgery recommended and performed, which also has the highest rate of success, is total hip replacement surgery.

Performed similarly in humans, this surgery involves implanting a prosthetic, functional joint. With this surgery, most pets return to a healthy, high-activity status post-surgery.

Keep in mind that a pet with hip dysplasia experiences extreme discomfort in their hind legs, so exercise and activity should never be too rigorous. While treatment is intended to help relieve pain, said relief is not intended to allow for rough-housing or performing strenuous activities. For all methods of treatment, follow-up appointments are recommended, and in some cases required, in order to monitor healing and treatment.

If you have any questions about hip dysplasia or the various treatments we offer, please contact our office.

Legg Perthes disease

Legg Perthes disease affects the hip joint and ultimately causes arthritis and inflammation. The pain inflicted from this disease can be debilitating, and immobility is common. The disease starts when the head of the femur bone slowly begins to lose blood supply, eventually causing the head to die off. This portion of the bone collapses (in an X-ray you can see the femur head is far less dense than normal bone), and the surrounding cartilage cracks and warps.

There is no known cause of Legg Perthes disease, but it typically occurs in miniature, toy, and small breeds within their first year of living. If your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms, feel free to contact our office to schedule a treatment evaluation.

Symptoms of Legg Perthes Disease:

  • Clicking sound coming from hip joint
  • Lameness in hind leg(s)
  • Limping
  • Reluctant to stand up, play, or jump
  • Thinning of thigh muscles
  • Weakness

Diagnosing and treating Legg Perthes disease

Diagnosing Legg Perthes is not complicated, but some symptoms can mirror other degenerative hind leg diseases such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. During your pet’s appointment, the veterinarian will take radiographs that can help distinguish which disease your pet is suffering from.

In treating Legg Perthes, surgery is the method of choice for most veterinarians. Femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) is the most common and most successful surgical procedure for this particular disease. During this procedure, the veterinarian will remove the femur head, and in more severe cases, the neck of the femur bone as well. After healing, a pet’s body repairs itself to create a new joint of fibrous tissue and scar tissue, filling in the ball-and-socket joint area where the femur head once was. After the pet has had weeks to rest and allowed this scar tissue to build up, physical therapy rehabilitation is started to extend range-of-motion through hydrotherapy and other non-weight bearing activities. Also, weight management becomes extremely critical to prevent putting added stress on the hip joints. For pets that are genetically inclined to obesity, a nutrition plan might be implemented. The FHO surgery is often very successful in preventing further pain, improving range of motion, and increasing activity levels.

If you have any questions about treatment for Legg Perthes disease, please contact our office.

Torn ACL

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) stabilizes a pet’s knee joint and keeps the lower leg bones in place beneath the thigh bones. An ACL tear can be partial or complete, causing immense pain and suffering for an animal. Being the most common cause of rear leg lameness and one of the major causes of degenerative joint disease, ACL ruptures cause gradual and irreversible damage to joint cartilage. Though the condition is very common, it is still considered to be quite serious and requires immediate veterinary care. A majority of ACL tears need surgical stabilization of the knee joint and the sooner the surgery is performed, the less likely a pet is to suffer secondary injuries such as a second ACL tear in the opposing hind leg.

An ACL tear can happen from acute trauma or from chronic repetitive injuries. Most happen during physically demanding activities like jumping, playing, running, or roughhousing. Most commonly, pet owners report their pet stumbling and being unable to get back up – holding its leg at an awkward angle. It is important to note that all breeds, genders, and ages are susceptible to ACL tears, and overweight pets are at an increased risk. Helping your pet maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and exercise can help lower this risk.

What symptoms would my pet exhibit if they tore their ACL?

  • Arched back in attempt to force weight onto front limbs
  • Begins to side-sit with no apparent purpose
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Reluctance to use one or both hind legs
  • Reluctant to jump, run, or stand
  • Sudden and severe lameness in one or both rear legs
  • Weakness

Surgical treatment for a torn ACL

There are numerous therapies available for ACL ruptures, and combined with anti-inflammatories and rest, they can help manage the pain caused by an ACL tear. But, these therapies will never fully cure the injury. In these cases, we believe that surgery is a pet’s best chance to fully restore motion and permanently manage pain.

There are a number of various surgical techniques and more are being developed all the time. During your pet’s exam, we will determine which technique is best for their circumstance. After surgery, rehabilitation will take anywhere from 2 to 4 months for full recovery. In most cases, we prescribe anti-inflammatories and medication to help with cartilage repair. During the recovery period, pet owners are advised to help their pets maintain a healthy weight by limiting their food intake and switching pet food to a healthier brand. Pets will also need their exercise restricted. Long, controlled walks will help prevent muscle loss without overexerting rear leg ligaments. Finally, some pet owners also see it fit to have their pet attend physical therapy for rehabilitation purposes.

If you have any questions about ACL surgery, feel free to contact our office at your convenience.


A hernia is caused by a body of tissue allowing itself through an opening in the structure walls that usually contain it. To envision the process, imagine a hole the size of a penny in saran-wrap, then forcefully pushing your fist through the hole. In this instance, the saran-wrap would be the structure walls and your fist would represent the tissue. After enough force, the saran-wrap would tear, and your fist would burst through the other side. The body of tissue within pets is usually fat or internal organs and most commonly occurs near the abdomen but can occur in other places. While hernias can be life threatening, they are entirely treatable and have an excellent prognosis when given prompt veterinary care.

There is no guaranteed method of preventing hernias. Acquiring them is usually hereditary or inflicted by trauma. If you have any questions about hernias in pets, or would like more information, feel free to contact our office.

Signs your pet might have a hernia:

  • Abdominal pain
  • ng of the skin in abdominal area
  • Coughing
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hard knots in the abdominal or groin area
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

What types of hernias do pets get?

Diaphragmatic – Can occur in any age of pet; some pets are born with these types of hernias, others develop them after an injury. With Diaphragmatic hernias, the internal organs enter the chest cavity making breathing difficult.

Hiatal – Occurs when part of the stomach forces itself into the diaphragm at the point where the esophagus meets the stomach. Hiatal hernias can be caused by trauma or can be congenital.

Inguinal – These happen when a pet’s inner rear leg fixes to the body wall, near the groin area. Depending on the size of the hernia, segments of the bladder, intestine, and uterus have been known to get caught, creating a life-threatening problem. Inguinal hernias are congenital and usually affect female pets, namely those pregnant and middle-aged. These are usually surgically fixed immediately.

Perineal – Usually occurs when pelvic muscles tear, allowing abdominal muscles to enter the area bordering the anus. While it is merely believed that some breeds are more susceptible to perineal hernias, it has definitively been proven to occur in older, unneutered male pets.

Umbilical – Typically seen in younger pets, umbilical hernias are the most common type of hernia and are located near the bellybutton. Smaller hernias can close up on their own, or can be left alone and never bother a pet over the course of its life; larger umbilical hernias are usually fixed during spay or neuter surgery.

How are hernias treated?

A hernia is a condition best treated in a timely manner; the earlier one can be corrected, the better. After a pet has been diagnosed with a hernia, we usually recommend prompt surgical correction. In some cases, the veterinarian might be able to push back the projecting tissue manually. While this method is more cost-effective for the pet owner, it is not considered as reliable as surgery and can cause the hernia to become strangulated which is a serious medical emergency. After surgery, most pets take some time to recoup, but the long term prognosis is highly favorable.

If you think your pet might be suffering from a hernia, please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an exam.