SlimDoggy Health Check: Skeletal Disorders Part 1
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.
- Hip & Elbow dysplasia:
- 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.
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.
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:
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
Osteoarthritis, Arthritis in Dogs
Non-surgical Treatment of Arthritis
Abnormal Development of the Elbow in Dogs
If Your Dog’s Gait is Changing, Check for Elbow Dysplasia
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip or Elbow Dysplasia