One of the things we love most about dogs is their unbridled passion. We see it in how they jump on us when we arrive home, sprint in circles in the yard or crash headlong into a lake. This all-out lifestyle as well as genetic dispositions to joint injuries can lead to many different orthopedic disorders. Here are some of the most widespread conditions with which every dog owner should be familiar.
- A congenital genetic condition that results in an improperly formed joint in the hip or elbow causing painful wear-and-tear each time a limb is bent.
- More common in bigger dog breeds, like a St. Bernard or Mastiff, though some smaller breeds like pugs can be susceptible.
- Rapid weight gain and obesity, both results of improper nutrition, exacerbate the condition.
Cruciate Ligament Tears:
- A partial or complete rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the band of tissue that connects the two main leg bones.
- It usually presents itself as lameness in the hind legs of dogs, and is more prevalent in larger breeds like Newfoundlands and German Shepherds.
- Many factors, including a dog’s age, breed, genetics, weight and physical condition can lead to this condition.
- Kneecap dislocation primarily affects toy and smaller dog breeds, like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, but big dogs like labs and retrievers are also prone, and it is more commonly found in female dogs.
- Generally caused by a knee joint abnormality, it can also be a symptom of a traumatic injury.
- Though only considered painful during the short time the kneecap moves out of place, it can worsen over time causing constant pain and immobility.
- Also known as cauda equina syndrome, this disease presents in middle to old age and is also more prevalent in larger dog breeds.
- Often caused by the degenerative or congenital narrowing of the spinal cord, it is much like sciatica or a slipped disc in humans.
- Symptoms include trouble moving, wagging the tale or going the bathroom.
- This chronic ailment occurs due to wear and tear or a previous trauma, making it a conditional symptom of many of the disorders listed above.
- Degeneration of joint cartilage makes movement extremely painful for dogs, causing them to appear lame or lethargic.
- A UK study found that nearly 30% of all dogs suffer from this disease, with that number increasing with age, weight gain and size.
Prevention & Treatments
- A healthy lifestyle, proper diet and weight loss can help prevent or lessen the effects of these diseases.
- Depending on your dog’s breed, size, weight and/or overall health, physiotherapy options (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.), joint supplements and medicinal treatments (NSAIDs or intramuscular injections) are used as remedies.
- Surgery is also a treatment option, with costs ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
Though often genetic and not all curable, these diseases don’t have to stop the fun-loving relationship you have with your dog. But just as our dogs can’t change their genetic makeup, they can’t change how they act, eat or sleep—it’s up to us to do that. By taking care of their bodies the same way we do ours—watching our waistline, exercising without overdoing it, getting enough rejuvenating sleep—we can help our furry buddies avoid suffering from, lessen the effects of or recover faster from these common canine orthopedic conditions.