SlimDoggy Health Check: Skeletal Disorders Part 1

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We move on to Skeletal Disorders and Diseases in dogs in our SlimDoggy Health Check Series. Wikipedia provides a long list of potential issues, we will take a look at the most common.

  • Osteoarthritis:
  • Just as in humans, arthritis is a degenerative disease caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding our joints. Osteoarthritis signifies a chronic condition of inflammation of the joints. Senior dogs are most susceptible although it can occur in younger dogs – especially if they have sustained any injuries to the joints. Symptoms include lameness, decreased activity, stiff gait and possible swelling around the affected joint. The symptoms may worsen with cool or damp weather. Your vet can provide a proper diagnosis through examination and possibly xrays. Treatment of OA may include a diet and exercise program if your dog is overweight. Feeding foods rich in Omega-3 is helpful as are supplements of Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and even pain killers if necessary. It’s important to make sure your arthritic dog has a warm dry place to sleep and you may even invest in a better dog bed – one that provides more cushioning and support for your dog.

    Alternative treatments include massage, acupuncture and water therapy. We had very good luck with regular injections of Adequan for both Sally & Becca. It helps prevent further breakdown of the cartilage and may even promote regrowth.


  • Hip & Elbow dysplasia:
  • Dysplasia is a condition where the joint or socket is malformed and leads to a degenerative condition in the joint. Let’s look at elbow dysplasia first. Our Sally had elbow dysplasia, which isn’t really surprising – it is found most often in large, fast growing, active breeds like Labs, Rottweilers, Goldens and GSDs. It’s usually diagnosed within the first two years. There are three bones that make up the elbow and all three of these come together in the elbow joint. Elbow dysplasia can be a result of four different developmental problems that may occur in that joint:

    • Elbow incongruency: The joint does not fit together properly.
    • Ununited anconeal process: (UAP) Occurs when the ulna and humerus bones are not joined correctly.
    • Fragmented coronoid process (FCP):A piece of the ulna breaks off.
    • Osteochrondrosis dissecans (OCD):The bones and cartilage do not form correctly.

    Symptoms of elbow dysplasia include: lameness, either acute or persistent, holding the limb at an outward angle, decreased range of motion and possibly fluid build-up. Your vet can make a proper diagnosis through xrays, CT scans and MRIs. They may also take a fluid sample from around the affected joint(s). Treatment goals are to maintain a pain-free, good quality of life. Depending on the severity of the condition, that may be accomplished with diet, exercise and medication. Alternative treatments of water therapy and acupuncture can also be helpful. In some cases, surgery may be an option. In our Sally’s case, her elbow dysplasia was a result of FCP, so surgery to remove the broken of piece of ulna was performed. We were fortunate that it was successful and Sally went on to live, run and play, pain free for many years. Since dysplasia is genetic, prevention can be improved through proper screening. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals screens for dysplasia and provides a wealth of information relative to managing the disease.
    Hip Dysplasia is also a very common genetic condition where the hip socket is malformed and the hip joint doesn’t sit correctly in the socket and causes wear and tear and pain to the joint. It can eventually lead to arthritis and may be exacerbated by environmental conditions. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but the large breeds such as Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd are more susceptible. Symptoms are similar to elbow dysplasia, lameness, a reluctance to play or to stand on their hind legs, splaying of the back legs, decreased range of motion and difficulty climbing stairs. Your vet will diagnosis hip dysplasia through exam, xray and possible a CT or MRI scan. There are fewer surgical options for hip dysplasia, short of a hip replacement. Typically your vet will recommend treatment with diet, exercise and medication. Controlling your dog’s weight is critical with these types of joint disease as just a few pounds puts added pressure on weakened joints and will increase their pain. Swimming is a great non-weight bearing exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia.

    Be sure and take a look at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website for extensive information regarding orthopedic issues of our pets.

In Part 2 of our SlimDoggy Health Check: Skeletal Disorders, we will look at:

  • Luxating patella
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Panosteitis

Additional Reading:

Osteoarthritis, Arthritis in Dogs
Non-surgical Treatment of Arthritis
Abnormal Development of the Elbow in Dogs
Elbow Dysplasia
If Your Dog’s Gait is Changing, Check for Elbow Dysplasia
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

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  1. We, too, have had good luck with monthly (or more frequent in the case of our elbow dysplasia dog) injections of Adequen. We also now do daily Rymadyl for that dog. The combo seems to be working (for now).

    It’s an unlikely thing but I learned the hard way to always run your hands carefully over any limb that seems sore, feeling for lumps. It could be bone cancer (low odds but worth finding sooner than later). In our dog who got it, we assumed her limping was due to another orthopedic issue in the same limb. I was really glad that the lump was found before a pathological fracture occurred.
    KB recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Leaping Lab and Forest ShadowsMy Profile

    • Our Becca had so many orthopedic problems we too thought her limping was related to that rather than Osteo. Our big signal was she still limped even after resting the limb. Maggie has developed a pretty consistent left front limp…we’re off to the vet today.
      mkob recently posted…SlimDoggy Health Check: Skeletal Disorders Part 1My Profile

  2. Hip dysplasia is cruel and heartbreaking. I have had two dogs suffer with it. I would not give Rymadyl to a Retriever without reading possible side effects.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Dogs Know the Difference #JonesNaturalChewsMy Profile

    • Yes, Carprofen (generic for Rimadyl, Vetprofen, Novox) can be tricky for their GI systems and kidneys if given over long periods of time. Labs shoe higher susceptibility to liver toxcity. Our dogs have all taken it to no ill effects for short periods and monitored closely by our vet. They would switch them to Deramaxx if longer term use was needed.
      mkob recently posted…SlimDoggy Health Check: Skeletal Disorders Part 1My Profile

  3. All these things are so scary, and I couldn’t imagine watching a dog go through them :/
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Talking Huskies – #MultiPetManiaMy Profile

  4. I HIGHLY recommend MSM for joint discomfort. There are numerous books on this amazing supplement including, “The Miracle of MSM.” In horses, it is DMSO. I use it myself for back pain and I have very little pain with my herniated discs (I take 10,000 mg/10 grams) daily in a powder with crystal light. I give my dog 2000 mg/2 grams daily for maintenance, and up to 8000 mg/8 grams when he gets lame with overdoing it with exercise (1000 mg/1 gram per 10 pounds of dog seems to work). There is no maximum dosage or side effects as it is JUST SULFUR. We are lacking sulfur in our diets as we do not eat from the earth anymore. I just heard yesterday that it is helpful for seizures in dogs as well and there was an article somewhere about that. Every human I have recommended MSM states it works within 3 days in decreasing pain (and inflammation?), and the same goes for the dogs. MSM has been used in pain clinics out West for over 30 years. What I love most about it is there are no side effects. I have had to give Rimadyl previously, but with the MSM, I do not have to keep him on the Rimadyl for a long period of time. Hope this helps you all out there, as it has helped dogs that I have given it to!

  5. Having come from two breeds who are prone to hip issues, I am trying to be pro-active with Harley NOW. He’s on a joint supplement and actually doing quite well. Trying to stay ahead of the game. Thanks for this post I learned some valuable information.

  6. Katie has the osteo arthritis, we do what we can, some days are better than others, but the supplements and chiropractor have really helped a lot.
    Emma recently posted…Are You Prepared For A Puppy #MyPuppyHoodMy Profile

  7. Such a great informative post. Some thing all pet owners should be aware of and hopefully won’t happen to their pets. We are currently treating a newfie for elbow dysplasia and it is sad to see such a gentle giant be in so much pain.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Reflections And Psychedelic WaterMy Profile

  8. For a minute there, I thought you were talking about me (lameness, decreased activity, stiff gait)! 😉 Great info here, as always.
    Monika recently posted…Flashback FridayMy Profile

  9. Good information. It is so important to do those screening tests for planned breedings. It is also important to ask whether the tests have been done when getting a pup from a planned breeding. It is no guarantee, but the odds of avoiding hip or elbow dysplasia go way up with proper screening.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…A Trip To OhioMy Profile

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