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Should You Walk A Dog With Luxating Patella? 7 Reasons

Should You Walk A Dog With A Luxating Patella

Luxating patella or ‘trick knee’ is a common bone disorder in dogs.

It makes canines skip or walk on 3 legs.

Which can be concerning for dog parents.

So if your pooch has this, you may be wondering…

“Is it alright to walk them?”

Read on to learn:

  • If you should walk a dog with luxating patella.
  • Whether this kind of bone problem is painful or not.
  • What are the benefits and dangers of walking them.
  • Other possible disorders that they’re also at risk for.
  • And a lot more…

Should you walk a dog with luxating patella?

You should walk a dog with luxating patella if their case is only mild. And also, if they had surgery to correct it. Walking will improve coordination and power in their hind leg muscles. It’ll also keep them healthy and fit. Which helps prevent further injuries. As well as delay osteoarthritis. 

Before I proceed with the reasons, you might ask,

“What do you mean by ‘mild’?” 

Based on The American College of Veterinary Surgeons or ACVS, this condition has 4 levels based on severity.

To give you an idea, here’s a short explanation of each category:

  • Grade 1: Kneecap comes out of the groove with manual force. But, it returns right away on its own.
  • Grade 2: Kneecap slips out of the groove once in a while. But it snaps back to its original position when manipulated. 
  • Grade 3: Kneecap goes out frequently. But it still snaps back to its position after manipulation.
  • Grade 4: Kneecap is always dislocated. But this time, it can’t be brought back in with force.

Among these, Grade 1 (and sometimes Grade 2) is considered mild. Meaning, it’s usually painless and doesn’t need any surgery.

So if your dog has the same diagnosis, they’ll only be given medications. As well as be advised to do some light exercises.

And one good example of this is walking.

“But how long should I walk my dog?”

Slow and short walks are suitable for them to avoid overexertion of the knees.

Small and toy breeds are also often affected by this. Say, Chihuahuas and Pomeranians. So they only need brief exercise.

Begin with 5 to 10 minute walks daily. With breaks in between. And do this at least 2 or 3 times a day. 

From this, you can reduce or increase it. Depending on your dog’s condition.

So make sure to check on them during and after the stroll. To see if they’re comfortable with it or not.

More reminders for a safe walk

Reminders For A Safe Dog Walk
  • Walk your dog on a leash. Preferably, use a short one – 2 to 3 ft long (61 to 91 cm). So that your dog won’t pull much and blast off.
  • Pay close attention to them. Watch your dog while walking. Check whether they’re enjoying it or not. And stop if they’re in pain.
  • Eyes on the road as well. Look at the surroundings for any hazards. Like rough or slippery surfaces. So you can avoid them during the stroll. 

Now that we’ve talked about how you should walk your dog…

It’s time for the next question.

“How does it help their condition?”

Continue reading to find out…

7 reasons why you should walk a dog with luxating patella

#1: To strengthen their rear leg muscles

Walking tones the muscles in our legs. Plus, it also helps in making them stronger.

And this could be applied to our furry friends as well.

“What can walking do for them?”

Dogs with mild cases have kneecaps that only slip out when a force is applied to them.

And it’s also possible for canines to experience lameness in their back legs.

So, to prevent their condition from getting worse…

A walk is needed to toughen the muscles around their knees. As it’ll help their hind legs hold the kneecap in position.

While light exercise will also avoid weakness in the area.

“What other safe activities can my dog do?”

Aside from having a simple walk, vets also recommend:

Controlled hill walks

For this, you need a hill that’s not overly steep. Somewhere you and your dog can stroll on without much exertion.

Then, make your pooch walk up and down the hill. And do it as slowly as possible.

This will boost their leg muscles’ strength. As well as their mass which could hold up their joints better.

Note: Do this after their leash walks. So that they’re in a more relaxed state when you perform this.

Underwater treadmill

This is exactly what its name is.

It’s doing a treadmill while half of the body is submerged in water. Like this:

AKC says that exercising in water will help strengthen dogs’ hindlimbs.

And the good thing is, it won’t strain their joints.

“Why’s that?”

It’s because of buoyancy. Or the force that fluids exert on an object. Which makes their legs float – creating less pressure.

Wanna know one more interesting fact?

It was also said that running on an underwater treadmill for 2 miles (3.2 km) is equal to…

4 to 5 miles (6.4 to 8 km) of running on land.

Note: This should be done with the supervision of an expert. If you’re interested in this, you can ask your vet for a recommendation. Or search for dog rehabilitation centers nearby.

#2: To improve coordination in their hind limbs

If your dog has had this condition for a long time…

They might have gotten used to not bearing their weight on the injured leg. Which can affect their balance. As well as coordination.

“How does walking help in this?”

It aids dogs in regaining their ‘proprioception.’ Or their awareness of their own body.

Like being able to tell where their hind legs are. And how they move while strolling or standing still.

“Why is this helpful for them?”

This can prevent your pooch from having any other injuries.

Because when they lose senses in their own legs, they may trip frequently. Or even drag their hind limbs while moving.

So, how to know whether your dog loses their proprioception?

Specialists list down some other signs to watch out for:

  • Loss of balance.
  • Wounds on their paws.
  • Knuckling over of the toes.

#3: To maintain a healthy weight

Dog With Luxating Patella On A Walk

Exercise is important in keeping our furry pals fit.

And dogs who have this condition need it even more.

“Why’s that?”

It’s because heavier weight puts more stress on a canine’s joints.

So it’ll only bring discomfort to someone who has a bone disorder. Like luxating patella.

This will affect their mobility as well. And since it’ll be harder for them to move, they need to exert more force. Which isn’t good for their condition.

But by walking, they’ll slowly burn off excess fats. And maintain or reduce their weight.

“What’s the ideal weight for my dog?”

It’ll vary per age, size, gender, and breed.

Here’s a chart of standard breed weights for reference. Or you can try this online tool.

But to be sure, consult this with your vet. So he or she could also come up with the right diet plan. If ever your dog needs one.

Because exercise alone won’t be effective in losing weight. Especially if your pooch loves treats and carbs! 🙂

Note: If your dog needs to get rid of some fats, reduce the amount of commercial treats they consume. And give them healthy, but yummy fresh munchies instead. Say, small bits of apples, bananas, or carrots.

#4: To delay osteoarthritis

Your vet might have already told you this.

But, luxating patella also makes dogs prone to other joint issues. And one of these is canine arthritis.


Their kneecap slips out of their normal position, right?

This makes their bones rub against each other. Which will result in joint pains in the long run.

“How does walking help?”

It won’t stop your dog from getting arthritis. As all dogs may likely have it as they age due to wear and tear.


It can delay its symptoms.

Like I said earlier, walking help in keeping our dogs fit. And weight is a big factor in arthritis.

Research shows that being overweight contributes to aching joint pains. Especially on the knees. Which is the affected part in the luxating patella.

Another study found that weight loss helps treat lameness due to joint pains. And good results will be seen after losing 6.10 – 8.85% of body weight.

You might also be interested in: 11 Reasons Why Your Dog Groans When You Pick Him Up

#5: To prevent cruciate ligament injury

“What is it?”

This is a painful knee injury that’s also common in dogs. And it’s one of those conditions where your pooch is at risk.

According to VCA, this could make dogs unable to walk. And a more severe form of it can be a result of arthritis. As well as a recurring injury.

Also, it was observed that dogs with heavier weights are more likely to get this over time.


Same with arthritis, their heavier mass will also put more pressure on their knee joints. 

Making it harder for them to move around. Which will then result in an injury.

For further reading: Why does my dog grunt and groan?

#6: For physical rehabilitation after surgery

Now, this is for dogs who once had luxating patella.

“Is it safe for them to walk after surgery?”

Yup. Experts recommend walking as a rehabilitation exercise.

This will help your dog to use their injured leg again.

But of course, don’t do it right away. Wait for your doggo to be able to get up first when you do it. And look at their current condition.

Also, the activity’s safeness will depend on how you do it.

Based on vets (same with the ones mentioned above), walks must be slow and brief. And it should always be done on a short leash.

So that you can easily get hold of your dog. Preventing any possible injuries that they may have while strolling.

To help you create a walking schedule for your dog post-surgery…

Here’s a table of what experts usually advise during rehab:

WeekTotal minutes of walk per sessionFrequency per day
1 week5 to 10 minutes2 to 3 times
2 to 4 weeks10 to 15 minutes2 to 4 times
4 to 6 weeks15 to 20 minutes3 times
6 to 8 weeks20 to 30 minutes3 times

Apart from strolling, other activities that I discussed earlier are also recommended. Such as doing underwater treadmills and hill walks.

Note: This is only a sample schedule. If your dog can’t keep up with the increased walks, stick with a shorter one. Your vet can also help you make a more suitable one for your pooch.

#7: To keep them (and yourself) healthy

Lastly, walking will also benefit you and your dog’s health in general.

I mean, it isn’t only an activity focused on their legs. As it affects other aspects as well. (Same goes for you!)

Experts share that a simple walk helps in their:

  • Digestion.
  • Mental health.
  • Emotional well-being.
  • Urination and bowel movements.


First, walking aids digestion. Plus, it’ll also prevent your dog from having an infection.

Because if their pee is stored too long in their bladder…

It can be a perfect habitat for bacteria.

So the more they walk, the more chances they have for emptying their bladder.

Second, dogs also get bored. When they do, they’ll be frustrated. Then show unwanted behaviors.

And walking helps relieve their stress. As well as release their pent-up energy. Which is often the reason why they can’t sleep at night.

Third, walking is a great bonding time for you and your dog.

This will make them feel secure and happy inside. As canines also crave attention from the humans they love.

But apart from your dog, you’ll benefit from this as well. Because walks are good for everyone.

And definitely in your mental and emotional well-being too. A study shows that dog parents who walk their Fidos often report feelings of joy.

When you shouldn’t walk a dog with luxating patella

You shouldn’t walk a dog with luxating patella if their case is either Grade 3 or 4. This is because their condition is more severe. And it can be painful when they walk.

Experts say that dogs who have this diagnosis need surgery. And sometimes, Grade 2 is also included in this. As there are cases where medications and exercise won’t be enough.

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