Ever since my Chihuahua was a puppy, he constantly switches back legs when running. Some times, he runs on all fours. Other times, he will run on 3 legs, always keeping one back leg off the ground. When he does this, it is never the same leg, and some times he switches. He never shows any signs of discomfort or yelps that might indicate pain. We even took him to the vet when he was young and they checked his knees and they did not detect anything. They said smaller breed dogs may do this "just because they can get away with it." However, I was doing some reading today and came across this link on wikipedia about luxating patella. It states

Chihuahuas are also known for luxating patella, a genetic condition that can occur in all dogs. In some dogs, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not shaped correctly and a shallow groove is created, causing the patella to luxate or slip out of place, sideways. The knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur can cause some pain. The affected chihuahua will hold its leg flexed, and foot off the ground until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and lengthens, after which the animal feels no discomfort and continues with activity.

Emphasis my own. This seems to describe what occurs. But he doesn't have any issue walking, and like I mentioned no indication of pain. Did my vet know what he was talking about? Or should I be concerned?

  • Is your dog over weight at all? My moms tiny dogs are a little over weight and her vet advised her that they may have issues with their knees if they continue to be over weight. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 5:43
  • My Dachshund does this (she's a mini) and I always thought it was just because her less muscular and "developed" hind legs can't completely keep up with her front ones when running flat out
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


It could be a subluxating patella that acts up only occasionally. My Yorkie had this problem. Most of the time he was fine, but occasionally, he would do something wrong and irritate it and then he would limp. Testing his knees didn't show anything, but they were slightly looser than 'typical' so it was suggested that this might be a potential cause.

I wonder, though, about the consistent switching. It suggests to me that it might be something else. You didn't mention how old he was; it could potentially be arthritis.

  • He has done it since he was about 1 year but he is now almost 5. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 13:20

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