Health: 10 FAQs for Luxating Patella Surgery

Luxating Patella Surgery Incision | Vanillapup

Luxating Patella Surgery FAQs | Vanillapup
Happy Sunday! It’s been two weeks since my luxating patella surgery, and I know it will be good to share some answers to questions that others in a similar situation may have. Mama thinks that the information online is not as comprehensive as she likes, especially in the caregiving context. Hopefully, my personal experience can help prepare other mamas and papas out there with furkids who are also suffering from this condition.

Here goes!

1. Does my dog really need surgery?

As much as we don’t like the idea of a surgery, sometimes it can help improve your dog’s quality of life whether now or in the future. In my case, my left knee popped in and out so easily, it would eventually wear out my cartilage, causing arthritis. Although I can still walk well most of the time, it would be too late once I develop arthritis, which is extremely painful and incurable. There is also a chance that this condition may lead to a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament.

On the brighter side, there are some dog owners who told mama that their dogs lived with luxating patella all their lives without problems. It all comes down to individual situations, such as the severity of the condition. Hence, it’s best to consult a trusted vet (or two) before making a decision.

2. How much does the surgery cost?

I had my operation done by Dr. Hsu from The Animal Clinic. The surgery on my left knee cost the humans $763.60, including post-surgery medication. However, it may vary depending on the complexity of the surgery and other surgical variables. Dr. Hsu initially advised mama that the surgery would cost about $900, so she’s happy that the final cost is less than that.

3. Do I need to make any preparations for the surgery?

Even though Dr. Hsu told mama that it’s not necessary for her to stay home to care for me, she still did for the first two weeks. I’m glad she made that decision because I was feeling extremely manja the first few days. It helped a lot that she was around to accompany and comfort me.

  • Cut your pup’s nails as long nails will affect its balance, especially with only three legs!
  • Mama bathed me right before sending me to surgery because I wouldn’t be able to touch water for the next 2 weeks
  • If you don’t already have one, get an inflatable or e-collar to prevent your furkid from licking and nibbling on the incision area
  • I had to refrain from food and water after 10pm the day before surgery

4. What’s going to happen on the day of surgery?

Mama and papa told me I was going for a walk! We got into the car and arrived at the clinic at about 9.30am. That was when I realised that we weren’t going to the beach or the park. My heart was pounding because I am scared of clinics! When a kind lady called my name, mama carried me into a room and put me in a metal cage – something I fear more than the clinic. To make things worse, mama told me I had to stay in there for two hours before the surgery!

I gave her a disappointed look as she left me, and I was sure I saw tears in her eyes. I couldn’t believe that the humans left me all alone to face this by myself. At 12pm, the nurse took me into another room full of metal things. This was bound to be the worst day of my life. Thankfully, I somehow fell asleep and woke up at 2.30pm. But my left leg felt different and mama was still nowhere in sight. I was so weak and terrified 🙁 At about 4pm, the nurse came in and carried me outside where mama and papa were standing! I was really drowsy but my tail just couldn’t stop wagging – I was so happy!

When we got to the car, I could see that mama brought my bed along and she rested me on it. She sat with me in the backseat and we arrived home pretty quickly. Mama left me in her room the rest of the night. They kept the house quiet and dark so I could sleep well. I was eager to get some dinner but mama said I couldn’t have any until the next morning. That was 34 hours of absolutely no food! I would have protested if not for my drowsiness.

Throughout the night, I could sense mama listening to my every movement. She also woke up a couple of times to feed me water and give me massages so I wouldn’t feel too stiff on one side.

5. How will the incision look?

Luxating Patella Surgery Incision | Vanillapup

Nothing could prepare mama for this – a 10cm long incision. She knew it was going to be long and ugly, but she was nonetheless heartbroken. The sutures were undissolvable, but they were sewn on the inside and didn’t need to be removed.

6. What can I expect post-surgery?

Luxating Patella Surgery Wound | Vanillapup

There was no need to clean my wound, but it was crucial to keep it dry for two weeks. I was able to walk with three legs the very first night that I was back at home. My family was amazed by how resilient I was. By the third day, I was already raring to go! So much so that mama had to stop me from jumping and running too much. I started putting full weight on my left leg on the fifth day and was gradually allowed to do light exercises, such as a five to ten-minute walk on my second week.

One question mama had in her head before I went for surgery was how I was going to pee and poo with three legs. I proved to her that she didn’t have to worry at all. I was peeing and pooping all by myself the second day (I didn’t have any pee and poo the first day back). I surely didn’t soil myself!

Mama chose not to confine me to a small area in the house because she knew I would try hard to get out, which would definitely involve jumping. Do what you think is best for your pup’s recovery.

7. Can I apply Frontline to my dog after surgery?

My vet said yes! [We no longer use or recommend Frontline. Read our post on Natural and Safe Flea Repellents + DIY Recipe.]

8. What is the toughest thing I will have to cope with?

As a young pup, I was ready to go back to my normal activities as early as my second day back from surgery. The boredom was overwhelming because the humans didn’t allow me to run, jump, or play too hard. I was a pup with pent-up energy, and nowhere to release it. I even begged mama to chase me like she used to do and jumped excitedly and ran in circles every time I heard noises outside the door, driving mama mad.

Even though I was feeling okay, my knee needed far more time to heal. I had to be careful for at least six weeks, which was an impossible task. Mama had to keep watching and nagging at me whenever I got too active. To keep me occupied, she let me play IQ games and chew on oxtails and brought me on really short walks outside the house.

9. How long will my dog take to fully recover?

It should take 6 weeks to 2 months for your dog to fully recover. The external wound would heal in days, but the inside needs a lot more time.

10. When can my dog start running, jumping and swimming again?

Your dog should be kept on light, short, and dry exercises for at least two to three weeks. Refrain from letting it do anything too vigorous for the first six weeks.

Not sure whether your dog really needs luxating patella surgery? Dr. Brian Loon from Amber Veterinary Practice shares with us when surgery is needed.

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Latte is the happy Westie behind Vanillapup, a website for dog lovers. Discover latest products and services, dog-friendly hangouts, helpful tips and advice, and exclusive perks.


  1. Angie

    May 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I came across your post while googling patellar Luxation. My poor Roti had just been recommended to get surgery for his patellar Luxation and having read your post, I feel much more at ease now. If you don’t mind me asking, could you share which branch of The Animal Clinic did you visit for Latte’s surgery please? Thank you so much.

    • Vanillapup

      May 12, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Angie, sorry to hear that and we are glad the post helped in some way. We went to the Katong branch where Dr. Hsu is. Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions 🙂

  2. Joanne Ngu

    March 15, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Latte! I have a Chihuahua who just did hers on the 6/3/17. Just wondering how long does it take after the surgery to walk on your 4 legs normal because mine now keep walking with 3 legs and it makes me worry sick that she might not remember to use her surgery leg anymore!

    • Vanillapup

      March 16, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Joanne! Latte could walk on all four legs but with minimal weight on the healing leg on the second day. But for her to walk completely normally probably took 3-4 weeks. It’s good that your Chihuahua doesn’t use it actually so it can recover even quicker! I am sure she would use it once it’s better. For now, just monitor whether there’s anything strange about the leg or how she holds it up and consult the vet if necessary 🙂

      Hope this helps!

      – Sarah & Latte

  3. Nata

    February 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

    My poor baby just had her revision Sx on the same knee after a 4 month of what seemed to be a good recovery. She had both knees with the problem, but just 1 bothered most. Original Sx went well. She started to use her leg a little on the second day, gradually increasing use. But she continued limping and lost a lot of muscle in that leg. Four month after the Sx she suddenly stopped using her leg completely. I took her back to the vet where got devastating news. Her knee popped out again and requires same surgery. Vet did not know what could have gone wrong. After the second Sx vet said she needed to get a deeper groove 🙁 I am praying to God that this time it will be all good.

    • Vanillapup

      February 10, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Oh poor baby! I suggest bringing her to another reputable vet for a second opinion if you can before proceeding with the surgery. Two surgeries in less than a year sound overwhelming for both of you. Sending positive vibes your way. Hope she will be alright soon.

  4. JennyB

    November 17, 2016 at 12:26 am

    I am taking my 5lb Chihuahua tomorrow to have both legs done at the same time. I have no idea what to expect and I am scared for her. She is 11 years old and built like a potato on toothpicks. I don’t overfeed her either, that is just the way she is built. I wonder if she will even be able to walk at all at first and if not how long before she can?

    • Vanillapup

      November 17, 2016 at 12:48 am

      Hi Jenny, we wish your Chihuahua a successful surgery. Try not to worry too much, and focus on preparing for her recovery process. Operating on two legs at once does seem scary, especially at her age. But if you trust your vet and he/she is confident, then it should all be okay. Did your vet advise you on what to expect? I’m imagining that you may need diapers for at least the first week if she’s going to only have two active (front?) legs. We are sending positive vibes over. Dogs are very resilient, so I’m sure she will get well soon 🙂

    • Tera

      December 23, 2016 at 2:57 am

      Hi i was just reading as my 6 month old english bulldog needs to have a double knee surgery in a couple months. How was healing? Was he able to go to bathroom after or if not what did u do?

  5. Ali

    April 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I am freaking out about the possibility of surgery but also don’t think I can live with the ongoing uncertainty of when/if my little one’s knee is going to go out again. It’s not terrible at the moment and most of time is fine but then a random moment and the leg is back in the air for a few minutes. Not sure which is worse – recovery from surgery or spending years on edge trying to stop her being so exuberant!

    • Vanillapup

      April 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Ali, I was as worried as you were! Latte had luxating patella on both her hind knees, but only had surgery on one. If your dog is not limping frequently and not having her quality of life compromised, then a surgery is probably not necessary. However, it’s best to seek a few vets’ opinions before you decide. If a surgery is necessary, I just want to share that dogs are so resilient. They get back up on their feet (literally) within a day and a young and healthy dog should recover pretty fast 🙂 Don’t worry too much about it!

  6. judy

    March 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Thank you for your story and pictures. It’s helpful to read the details of another parent. My Shiba Inu – Pekingese mix was diagnosed with a stage 1 but limps constantly. It seems worse than 2 months ago. I’m so sad and frightened for my 8 year old baby. I think surgery is inevitable. I hope she gets back to her old self as quickly as possible.

    • Vanillapup

      March 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      Glad that the post helps! Limping constantly isn’t a good sign. My current vet says that we can live with luxating patella as long as there’s no limping. You may want to consult 1-2 vets to see if surgery is necessary. For mild cases, glucosamine may help alleviate the problem.

      Don’t worry too much. Even if she needs surgery, it shouldn’t be too complicated. Hope your pup recovers soon!

  7. Rufus

    February 7, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Hi! thank you so much for sharing. I am so grateful for the detailed blog you put up here. I have been researching for more than year to find a good surgeon for my dog who has luxating patella on both his hind legs. I was so glad to have found Dr Hsu through your blog. Dr Hsu operated on my dog 4 days ago and he is recovering fast and well. Thank you for recommending Dr Hsu and for giving my dog a better quality life from now on.

    • vanillapup

      February 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Rufus! Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂 So happy to hear that your dog is recovering well. Latte is also doing great, and we feel it’s a really good decision to go through with the surgery! Here’s wishing you and your dog great health this year and beyond 🙂

      Keep reading vanillapup.com!

      – Sarah, Latte’s mama

  8. Jenny

    January 19, 2015 at 12:08 am

    We are in New York City. I came across your blog when I was researching luxating patella recovery. It made me so happy to see a westie recovering well from the surgery. My pup is recovering nicely too and getting a lot of treats! Our vet does not do this type of surgery so we had to go to a specialized surgical vet–so it was pretty expensive. The cost of our surgery was $2000 USD for one knee.

    • vanillapup

      January 19, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Ah I see! Hello from Singapore! Glad to hear that your dog is recovering well. It’s the happiest thing to feel the knee and it doesn’t pop anymore 🙂

    • AimeeKnows

      August 22, 2017 at 4:03 am


      • Vanillapup

        August 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

        Hi, we are located in Singapore.

  9. Jenny

    January 16, 2015 at 3:11 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. My westie is 16 months old and is getting surgery for his luxating patella tomorrow. He also has it in both knees but his left knee is worse than his right and requires surgery. It’s great to see how well you are doing. I know it will be a hard 6-8 weeks but it will be worth it in the long run.

    • vanillapup

      January 16, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Jenny! I wish your westie a successful surgery and recovery! I’m doing very well now, my left knee no longer pops 🙂 It’s definitely worth the short-term pain and inconvenience. For the benefit of others who are like us, maybe you can share which vet you are using and how much he/she quoted you for surgery on one knee?

      Latte’s mama, Sarah.

  10. joey

    December 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Hi my chihuahua has both hind legs having this problems. Do your dog have 1 problem or 2 legs problem. The cost from animal clinic is reasonable. I ask others clinics they said about 3k.
    If the dog is walking ok do you think he still needs a surgery.

    I shall walk in tomorrow to Dr hsu

    • vanillapup

      December 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

      I have luxating patella on both my hind legs, but my left leg had it worse. The cost of surgery depends on your dog’s condition and also the vet. If your dog’s joint is popping in and out constantly, then it may be at risk of arthritis in the future. It’s best to consult a vet to see if surgery is necessary.

      If you are going to consult Dr Hsu, it’s better to book an appointment because he’s not in everyday 🙂

      All the best!

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