is a member of the American Kennel Club and is also the
National Club which represents, protects, and furthers
the interests of the breed and its owners throughout the world.

Boston Terrier Patellar Luxation

The most common orthopedic problem found in the Boston Terrier is patellar luxation, which can lead to rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament. Occasionally Bostons can suffer hip dysphasia, but this condition occurs more often in large breeds, while patellar luxation is more common in small breeds.

The canine patella is the equivalent of the human knee. Dogs have a ligament called the patellar ligament which slides in the patella groove on the lower end of the thigh bone at the front of the knee joint (stifle). When it luxates you can feel a popping at the knee cap as it moves medially (toward the middle of the body). Then the dog's patella ligament may assume its normal position again. This is called "medial patella luxation".

The patella is the kneecap, part of the structure of the stifle (knee) joint. A patella that is not stable but does not slip out of joint is said to be subluxating, while one that comes out of joint on its own is said to luxate. The cause of the problem can be from trauma but is more often genetic in nature. When the luxation is from trauma, something has occurred that has caused the knee to be forced out of normal alignment. A veterinary examination can determine if the knee structure is stable but an overzealous examination can stretch the ligaments. This type of examination is best left to the veterinarian and not done by the pet owner! Usually the traumatic injury occurs when the dog’s leg gets caught somehow and he struggles to pull free. Or during an overly enthusiastic playtime when the playmate grabs the foot and holds tight while the excited puppy tries to get away. Any other similar accident can permanently injure this small joint.

When the luxation is of a genetic nature, it is due to an abnormal development of the leg. There is a small groove that is a part of the structure that allows the patella to move freely but still remain in proper alignment. When this groove is too shallow or when the leg is slightly bowed, the ligaments holding the patella can be damaged. The ligaments themselves can be weak. Any or all of the above will lead to problems.

Signs of patellar luxation are limping, pain, and the dog may frequently stop to stretch his rear leg behind him. This straightening of the leg is done to allow the patella to pop back into its normal groove. There are several degrees of luxation, with the lower grade being the ability of the kneecap to pop back into place on its own and the highest grade (of four) being such severe luxation that only surgical repair can correct the dislocation. There are numerous reports of rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament. This term is familiar to any sports fan! Many a losing season can be blamed on injury to a key player’s ACL!

If your Boston Terrier has subluxating patellas, by all means keep his weight down. The obese dog will surely only become worse. When the patella(s) become loose enough to pop in and out, surgery is usually indicated. Obviously in Grades 3 and 4, surgery will be a necessity. The surgery will include deepening the groove in the thigh bone that the kneecap rides in. Recovery may take at least 6 weeks and may include physical therapy.

It is recommended that the Patella test be done every two years because of changes that may occur in the patella. However, it is most important that the patellas of a Boston Terrier be checked at these times:] Most important is to do it before you breed your dog. and every time it is bred thereafter. This could be part of a prebreeding exam for a bitch. The dog should be checked every two years if he is regularly being used as a stud.

Patellas can be registered with OFA by downloading the application form at and taking the form to your regular veterinarian when you have an examination. The examination consists of manipulating the rear leg to determine the condition of the patella.

When you complete all three of the required Boston Terrier tests, CHIC will automatically send you their certificate.

To download the applications for the gold and silver Certification Awards, Click HERE
These applications should be sent in at least a couple of months before the shows if possible.

The following are some great articles on Luxating Patellas:

Patellar Luxation in the Boston Terrier (pdf)

This material has been gathered from a number of canine health publications, including:
   "Canine Terminology", Spira ;
   "Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook"
    Carlson D.V.M and Giffin M.D.; and "Your Dog", published by Tufts University.


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