Everything You Need To Know About Boston Terrier Patellar Luxation

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Have you seen your Boston limping or in pain all of a sudden? Boston Terrier patellar luxation may be the cause of it. It is one of the most common orthopedic conditions among small breed dogs.

Boston Terriers are naturally playful and active dogs. What happens if they experience it?

Everything You Need To Know About Boston Terrier Patellar Luxation

A Boston Terrier patellar luxation is a condition wherein the kneecap (patella) moves out of its proper place. The patella is normally located in a groove on the end of the thigh bone just above the knee or the stifle. Luxation means dislocation.

Graphic image of a Boston Terrier with an X-ray image of its knees with a text explaining what Boston Terrier patellar luxation is

If your Boston Terrier experiences patellar luxation, it means that his/her patella is dislocated. They may experience different levels of pain. Boston Terrier patellar luxation is mostly genetics. 

Symptoms of Patellar Luxation in Boston Terriers

Most of the time, the symptoms of patellar luxation are obvious, and you can identify them easily. However, the severity of the dislocation can only be identified by a vet. So, here are some signs that I should look out for a Boston Terrier experiencing patellar luxation. 

  • Skipping a few steps and going back to normal walking
  • Stretching out or shaking a leg
  • Walking lamely
  • Legs are bent outward
  • Running or walking using only three legs
  • Sudden yelping in pain
  • Refusing to exercise
  • Inability to bend the leg
  • Swelling of the affected leg

Causes of Patellar Luxation in Boston Terriers

Boston Terrier sitting on the grass

Patellar Luxation is Boston Terriers is usually congenital and hereditary. It means that it is present in their genes even before they were born. Though they are born with normal legs, the abnormality will begin to develop early in life.

Being overweight or obese can also cause patellar luxation. The more weight the legs need to carry, the more they are prone to develop this disorder. Physical trauma or injury is rarely the cause of patellar luxation.

Patellar luxation can also be a result of a skeletal defect, such as:

  • Hip dysplasia, a result of bone deformity usually in developing puppies
  • Misaligned thigh bone
  • A deformed bone on the lower leg
  • Deteriorating muscles on the thigh which pulls the patella out of its groove
  • Too loose or too long ligament on the kneecap

Other Terrier Breeds Chance of Getting Luxating Patella

Other Terrier BreedsPercentage of Dogs With Luxating Patella (%)
Australian Terrier 17.7
Yorkshire Terrier 17.2
Biewer Terrier 9.7
Bedlington Terrier 7.4
Jack Russel Terrier 6
Boston Terrier 5
Bull Terrier 1.7
American Pit Bull Terrier 1.1
Welsh Terrier 0.8
Staffordshire Bull Terrier 0.7

The Severity of Patellar Luxation in Boston Terriers

74.5% of small breed dogs, including our Boston Terriers, are affected by patellar luxation. It is considerably higher than large breed dogs and cats. The severity of patellar luxation in Boston Terriers can be divided into four grades.

Grade I

In Grade I patellar luxation, the knee cap is in its proper position most of the time. Boston Terriers with Grade I patellar luxation may experience sudden popping out of the kneecap. They tend to skip or hop in the meantime to avoid using the affected leg.

The patella will go back to its proper place within a short period of time. Eventually, moving in and out of the patella out of its place will result in arthritis and degradation of the synovial hinge joint found on the knee. Through early diagnosis, I can avoid more serious problems.

Grade II

In Grade II patellar luxation, the knee requires to be manually manipulated back to its place. Once it’s there, it will stay in its proper position for a while. Grade II luxation is easier to spot due to an awkward position of the knee joint. 

Boston Terrier playing in the beach

Your Boston will not put weight on it until the patella is back in its proper location. It may also result in knee arthritis later on. It can be very painful when the cartilage has been damaged.

Grade III

In Grade III patellar luxation, the patella is out of its place more often. It can be maneuvered back to its place and it will stay there temporarily. Due to limb structure changes or cartilage damage from repeated luxation, Bostons experiencing Grade III patellar luxation will be in more pain and exhibit more lameness.

Grade IV

In Grade IV patellar luxation, the knee cap is permanently luxated and cannot be manually manipulated. There are severe limb structure changes. It can lead to lameness, impaired mobility, and reduced limb function.

Grade IV luxation is very tough on the knee joint. It can result in arthritis, stretching and tearing of ligaments, and the possibility of grinding bones at the joint.

Surgery is often the only option in this grade. Fortunately, patellar luxation surgery is cheaper compared to other orthopedic procedures.

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Can a Boston Terrier Live With Patellar Luxation?

A Boston Terrier can usually live a normal life with Grade I or II patellar luxations without pain or arthritis. When the patellar luxation is at Grade III or IV already, surgery will be recommended by your vet. After the recovery period, your Boston Terrier can use his/her affected leg again.

Treatments for Boston Terrier Patellar Luxation

Although most patellar luxation is congenital, there are still lots of things that you can do to help your Boston Terrier live a healthy and happy life. Here are some available treatments for patellar luxation based on the grade your Boston Terrier is in.

Healthy Lifestyle

You should keep your Boston Terrier at the right weight. He/she should also be well-muscled. It is one of the key aspects of caring for any knee issue. Excess weight increases the pressure and stress on the joint.

Too much weight can bring on arthritis and joint deterioration and will do worse on their knee cap’s condition. Make sure to provide physical activities to keep him well-muscled. The muscle will hold the knee cap in place better than fats, resulting in reduced incidences of popping out.

Exercise and other physical training will also help in maintaining the weight and good body structure of my Boston Terriers. Make sure to prepare enjoyable activities, specifically made for them. You don’t want to make them overly tired.

Chiropractic Treatments

Chiropractic treatments or physical therapy can keep the patella in its proper place. When your Boston Terrier is in Grade I or II of patellar luxation, chiropractic treatments will be recommended to you by your vet. You can even do it by yourself!

Chiropractic treatment delays the onset of arthritis by preventing the popping out of the knee cap very often. Your vet may recommend some physical therapy options that you can do with your dog.


For more severe patellar luxation, such as in Grade 3 or 4, surgery may be the best option. Most vets claim patellar luxation surgeries are usually successful. The Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Services and the Royal Veterinary College report that over 90% of owners are satisfied by the progress of the dogs after surgery.

Most dogs go back to their normal and active lives. Of course, just like any other surgeries, there are risks. There can be serious complications such as implant failure or migration, ligament rupture, inability to fully extend the joint, and infection of the joint.

Boston Terrier

Cost Of a Boston Terrier Luxating Patella Surgery

The cost of a Boston Terrier patellar luxation surgery is about $1,500 to $3000 per affected knee. That doesn’t include vet visits for diagnosis and other tests, such as for blood. Long-term medication for pain relievers can be costly, too.

What is the Success Rate of Patellar Luxation Surgery?

The surgical correction of Grade IV patellar luxation has an overall success rate of 93%.

The success rate of the surgery is defined as a dramatic improvement of the affected limb, permanent relocation of the patella, and return to normal or near-normal living, which is at 90%.

Recovery From Luxating Patella Surgery

In most cases, your Boston Terrier will be hospitalized overnight for further observations, and to have rest. After the surgery, you have to make sure that your Boston Terrier is in a safe place to recover.

Generally, here are the things that you can do to help your Boston Terrier recover faster:

Week 1 to 2

Minimize your dog’s activity. He/she should be put in an enclosed area. You should not allow them to climb upstairs, jump, or run. When they need to potty, you should put them on a leash. Between these weeks, your vet will remove the stitches.

Week 3 to 6

Your Boston is still not allowed to do strenuous activities. You can do minor activities on a leash, like short walks outside or practice sitting. Do not give them too many treats when doing these activities to help maintain their weight.

Week 6 to 8

An X-ray can be done to see the progress of your Boston Terrier’s affected knee cap. This stage is important to know if your dog’s patella is healing well.

Week 7 to 12

You may now take your Boston Terrier for longer walks. Still, no jumping or running. This recovery stage may vary depending on your vet’s test results.

In most cases, dogs that went under patellar luxation surgery will recover after 10 weeks. It can be achieved with your help through proper care, restrictions, and a strict diet. Consider giving your dog a little less than his/her usual food, since you are also limiting the physical activities.

Always monitor the incision to see if it is properly healing and there’s no presence of infection. Keep it clean and make sure they cannot lick it. If the incision or wound opened before the proper time, contact your vet or your local clinic.

Related Questions

Can a Dog Recover From a Luxating Patella Without Surgery?

A dog can’t recover from a Luxating Patella without surgery. However, if it’s a mild case, the symptoms can be managed so it won’t get worse.

Can a Dog Live With Luxating Patella?

Yes, a dog can live with Luxating Patella only if it’s a low grade. Grade 3 or 4 should be treated as it can cause pain and discomfort to your dog if left untreated.

Is Luxating Patella Common in Boston Terriers?

Luxating Patella is common in Boston Terriers. Boston Terriers belong to the small breed of dogs that Luxating Patella commonly affects.

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Patellar luxation usually happens in small dog breeds, such as my Boston Terriers. It is mainly because of genetics and may develop over time. Some physical injuries may also cause patellar luxation.

If diagnosed early, it can be treated without surgery. Generally, Boston Terriers that undergo patellar luxation surgery will survive.