Seeing your pup run, jump and race around outside is sure to warm the heart of any dog parent. This activity, and all its health benefits, can be brought to a halt by—and even contribute to exacerbating—health issues affecting their bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments. Here, our Plains vets outline four of the most common of these orthopedic health issues in dogs, what breeds most commonly develop them and how they can be treated.
Orthopedic health issues are a common reason for bringing dogs to our veterinary referral hospital. Orthopedic veterinary issues include any diseases, conditions or injuries affecting the skeletal structures of your dog's body, including their bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, joints and more.
While these kinds of health issues are relatively common in dogs of all shapes and sizes, certain breeds of dog may be predisposed to particular kinds of orthopedic health problems and large dogs tend to develop issues with their bones and joints in particular as they grow old since they have to carry around more weight.
Here are four of the most common orthopedic health issues that affect dogs in the Plains area.
Hip dysplasia describes when one or more of your pup's hip joints form abnormally, causing them to grind against one another. Over time, this leads to their breakdown—causing discomfort, pain and eventual loss of mobility and function in the affected joints.
Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition that is most often found in large to giant breeds of dog, including retrievers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, mastiffs and St. Bernards. While it is inherited, some factors and affect hip dysplasia's development in dogs, including weight, nutrition, how quickly they grow and the kind of exercise they regularly participate in.
Hip dysplasia is treated through orthopedic surgery designed to help restore the function and mobility of your pup's affected hips. There are three options for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia, each with their own unique benefits: Femoral Head Osteotomy, A Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy and a Total Hip Replacement. THR offers the best outcomes while FHO surgery is generally the lowest price point.
Torn Cruciate Ligament
Just like after too-vigorous exercise or repeated injury in people, our dogs can strain and even tear tendons or ligaments. The Cranial Cruciate Ligament, or CCL, is the canine equivalent of the ACL in people, connecting their shin to their thigh bone to allow the proper movement of their knee.
A serious injury like tearing your dog's CCL can happen in one of two ways. The first is suddenly and drastically through overexercise. The second is gradually over a period of time without resting to help the mildly injured ligament recover. If your pup continues to run and play with an injured ligament, it becomes likely that it will cause further injury.
While this injury can happy to any dog who is overexerting itself, research shows that certain breeds may be more likely to develop it than others. Like with Hip Dysplasia, large breeds are more likely to experience this injury, including Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, Mastiffs and Labrador retrievers.
Since CCL injuries don't naturally heal, surgical intervention is required to reduce your pup's pain and help them regain mobility. Your options include Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement. While each of these surgeries do so differently, they all aim to stabilize your pet's knee joint, reduce tibial thrust and allow for them to move without pain.
The patella, or the kneecap, normally sits quite comfortably in a groove above your dog's knee between their femur and shin. Luxating refers to something being out of place or dislocated. When your dog is suffering from a luxating patella, their kneecap has been dislocated and you may notice them limping, skipping a step or running on only three legs.
This injury is relatively common in many smaller breeds of dogs, like French Poodles, Bichon Frise, Chihuahuas and Maltese, which all have some amount of genetic predisposition to dislocating their knees. This often is reflected in the location of the ligament that connects the patella to the rest of the leg, causing it to wear down and eventually allow it to dislocate inwards.
Depending on the severity (also known as the Grade of the condition), treatment may range from the prescription of anti-inflammatory medication to surgical intervention. Surgeries to treat a luxating patella may reconstruct soft tissues in the area to help keep the patella in place, deepening the groove the patella naturally sits in to keep it stationary or correcting abnormally shaped bones to reduce deformities.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
Intervertebral disc disease, also commonly called IVDD, is a disease affecting your dog's spine that appears in three types.
Type 1 involves the rupturing of a spinal disc anywhere in your dog's back, causing a sudden inability to walk. Type 2 is a slower-acting bulging of the outer portion of your pup's spinal cord, compressing the spin and potentially causing a rupture like in Type 1. Type 3 is a sudden tear in the outer part of the spine caused by excessive exercise or physical trauma.
IVDD is seen in all sizes of dogs. Type 1 is most commonly seen in smaller dogs like dachshunds, Shih Tzus, toy poodles, beagles and basset hounds. It can also appear in medium and larger dogs too though. Type 2 is incredibly common in middle-aged medium-to-large dogs. IVDD is a degenerative condition that can be contributed to body types such as short and curved legs. Any pup with those characteristics will be more likely to develop IVDD than others.
Spinal surgery is a must when it comes to treating IVDD, although some very mild cases may be treatable through restricted movement and pain-management medications. Dogs with IVDD may never be able to walk again and have to rely on mobility devices to get around.