Why Do Chihuahuas Run On Three Legs



Have you noticed your Chihuahua hopping while holding one of their back legs up lately? Whether you are out for a walk or playing with him in your backyard, his limping is starting to become more frequent and troubling to you. And for good reason… he could be suffering from a series of bone-related conditions, which can become progressively worse over time. The best thing you can do when this happens is to contact your veterinary provider to establish a correct diagnosis and treatment. Before you start worrying about surgery and other complications, you should know there are alternative ways to help your little friend overcome his discomfort.

The Root of the Behavior

Limping or holding one of their legs up when walking, indicates that your Chihuahua may be suffering from a condition known as patella luxation. In common terms, this refers to a dislocated knee and it describes a situation in which your dog’s knee, the visible joint on the front part of the hind leg, slips out of its socket. It’s actually one of the most common problems to affect Chihuahuas as well as other breeds like Dachshunds, Pomeranians, Pekingese, Yorkshire Terriers, and Boston Terriers. What do all of these breeds have in common? Apart from their small physiques, these types of dogs have relatively weak muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which makes it easier for the kneecap to slip out-of-place. You can recognize the condition by the following signs: prolonged abnormal hind limb movement, hind limb lameness, occasional skipping, sudden lameness, or holding up the hind limb. 

You can also look for signs of pain and discomfort, keeping in mind that the condition can affect each dog in a different way. Sometimes a dog will simply lift his leg off the ground for a few seconds while other times, he may keep his leg off the ground even for a few days. If the pain is too severe, it can force them to not walk at all, or at the very least, attempt to walk solely on their front legs. However, the knee usually goes back into its normal position once your Chihuahua stops to relax. You should also know there are different grades of severity for this condition, ranging from grade I to grade IV. In grade 1, you may not even notice your dog has a problem. Consulting with your vet is very important as they should be able to tell what type of patella luxation your Chihuahua is suffering from by a simple examination and x-ray.

Encouraging the Behavior

Depending on the level of severity with patella luxation, you’ll need to consider going to your veterinary provider for some more tests. These include palpation of the knee under sedation, X-rays of the hind limb, analysis of the synovial fluid (the fluid that lubricates joints), as well as blood tests and urine analysis. If your Chi is suffering from grade I or II patella luxation, you’ll need to closely observe and keep him away from aggravating risks such as allowing him to jump down from the couch, bed or chair. This can cause the kneecap to slip out of its place and lock up. 

Instead, you should always pick him up and place him on the ground, holding his body gently and avoiding the area that's causing him pain or discomfort. In some cases, patella luxation surgery may be recommended, but as long as your Chihuahua is not experiencing pain or discomfort, there should be no need to go through with it. Above all, make sure that your veterinarian is a qualified orthopedic surgeon so that he can determine the best solution for your little friend. You can also help your Chi by having stairs and ramps available in the home and finding a nice, cozy place for him to rest.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Natural remedies are an excellent alternative to potentially dangerous invasive methods, so why not use them? You can start by giving your little Chihuahua vitamin and mineral supplements as well as joint or natural supplements that contain collagen. This is a protein that is found in joint cartilage and can help reduce damage to your dog’s joints along with building new cartilage. Instead of steroidal anti-inflammatories which can have damaging side effects for your little pup, consider herbal remedies like Licorice, Devils Claw, or Boswellia. These herbal extracts can help reduce your Chihuahua’s pain and inflammation, while also removing toxins from the body. However, you should always speak to your veterinary provider before giving your dog any kind of medication or supplement.


Whether your Chihuahua is suffering from patella luxation or is running on three legs because of a recent injury, check with your veterinary provider when you first start to notice the symptoms. Make sure you examine your dog’s knees at least every two years to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible.