Why Do Little Dogs Skip When They Walk

Small dogs, especially active ones, often suffer from problems with their cartilage and joints. In times of pain, you will find your little dog starts jumping or skipping around, primarily on his hind legs when he is walking.

This unusual behavior is often the result of a displacement or misalignment of the patella, which is often referred to as luxating patella or trick knee.

Of course, you should not exclude the possibility that his paws or legs are infected or injured, causing him to walk this way. Visually checking his paws or legs might provide you with some insights.  

What Is Luxating Patella and Why Is It Happening to Little Dogs?

A luxating patella occurs when the patella is misaligned and shifts, most commonly to the inside of the knee or outward.

Dogs have knees much like human knees, but much smaller. The patella sits directly above the knee joint, sliding up and down in a groove at the end of the femur. 

Kneecaps can slip out of place when the groove is too shallow to hold them in place. 

Small breeds of dogs, such as poodles, chihuahuas and other toy breeds, are the most common to have luxating patella, but bigger breeds can also be affected. 

In small dogs, the main reason for luxating patella is congenital as breeding has altered their anatomy over the decades.

Another possible cause of luxating patella is trauma, especially if your dog is of a large breed that generally does not suffer from this disorder.

4 Different stages of Luxating Patella

This condition can be categorized into four grades: mild, moderate, severe, and critical. 

  • Grade 1 : The patella may slip out of position periodically, but will heal by itself.
  • Grade 2 : The patella is more commonly dislocated, but still returns to its original position on its own.
  • Grade 3 : The patella slips frequently and remains in that position until manually repositioned.
  • Grade 4 : The patella has been displaced and cannot be manually repositioned.

Levels of lameness vary from grade to grade and are typically more pronounced in Grade 2,3 and 4.

Is It Possible for a Luxating Patella to Heal by Itself?

A grade 1 or 2 infection may self-heal, whereas a grade 3 and 4 infection will require manual treatment.

The healing process will vary depending on the severity of the luxating patella.

Dogs with grade 2 luxating patella can often live a pain-free, happy life if they are given the right treatment, whereas corrective surgery will be required for dogs with grade 3-4 luxating patella.

Dogs with Luxating Patellas: What Exercise Should You Give Them?

Are you aware that as much as dogs enjoy fetching balls and playing flirt pole, these games can be hazardous for them? (especially those with arthritis and the Luxating Patellas problem).

Dogs with luxating patellas, arthritis, and other joint problems need to minimize joint stress to avoid further injury.

Little dogs and puppies have a restricted range of movement and their joints are unable to handle as much stress as other big breeds of dogs.

Because of this, if their joints are subjected to too much strain, they can easily develop luxating patellas.

In general, any activity that involves leaping, sprinting, or explosive movements is bad for small dogs or older dogs with joint ailments.

So you should only plan for some light exercise for your small dog. Go for some light workouts such as:

  • A leashed walk in a quiet neighborhood. Avoid bringing him to dog parks as he may become overly excited and start chasing his “prey” such as squirrels or birds.
  • Take him for a swim.
  • Play food-spotting or play hide and seek games with him.

Walking with a leash, swimming or light running are effective low-impact exercises for your small dog as long as you do not overexert him.

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How Far Should I Walk My Dog?

Generally, your dog should still feel comfortable after a walk of a certain distance and pace. 

In other words, if your dog takes the lead at the beginning of the walk, he should also be able to maintain the lead at the end.

If your pet appears to be dragging his feet as you are approaching home, he may be in pain in his joints. 

In order to know when to reduce the length or intensity of a walk, you must monitor the signals your dog is sending to you.

What Will Be the Ideal Diet for Dogs with Joint Problems?

You will have to be mindful of the type of food that you are feeding your dog if he is having joint discomfort.

It is not recommended to feed high protein diets as they are hard on the joints and can lead to further joint pain in your dog. 

So, let’s have a look at what foods are best for your arthritis-suffering dog!

Joint Pain-Relieving Foods for Dogs


Your dog will benefit from turmeric. Curcumin, turmeric’s main ingredient, is an anti-inflammatory that relieves knee osteoarthritis pain. It also makes your dog more comfortable by reducing swelling and weakness. 

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fish oil. The acids in these foods create hormones that help with your dog’s blood flow and soothe inflammation.  According to research, these acids may alleviate symptoms of arthritis in dogs. 


The anti-inflammatory properties of papaya promote bone and joint health in your dog, as well as reducing arthritis pain and inflammation. 

Dogs should, however, only consume papaya in moderation because it can cause loose stools and diarrhea if eaten in excess. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is good for bone health and protects against osteoarthritis, spinal abnormalities, and dysplasia of the hip. As well as helping to maintain the health of your dog’s joints, it also helps to maintain collagen levels.

Dogs with Joint Problems Shouldn’t Eat These Things


You may want to consider grain-free food if your dog suffers from arthritis. The grains found in processed dog foods can fluctuate your dog’s glucose levels and result in painful inflammation. By limiting the amount of grain your dog consumes, you can reduce his swelling.


Many dog foods contain corn as an ingredient and filler, making it a somewhat controversial topic. It is high in carbohydrates and can provide a quick source of energy, but some dogs can be sensitive to its carbohydrates, causing inflammation.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

When dogs consume a commercial diet (kibble and canned food), their bodies are packed with omega-6 fatty acids.  Excess omega-6 fatty acids like linoleic acid are converted into arachidonic acid causing inflammation in arthritis sufferers.

Processed Foods

In general, processed foods are more likely to cause inflammation. Avoid them if there are other food alternatives for your dog. Of course, nothing beats home-made food for your dog!

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