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Common Orthopedic Problems in Dogs

Watching your dog run, jump and play can be a joy but this activity, and all its health benefits, can be brought to a halt by—and even contribute to exacerbating— painful orthopedic conditions. Below, our Huntsville vets outline four of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs and how they can be treated.

Dogs Commonly Affected By Orthopedic Problems

Orthopedic problems are a common reason for bringing dogs to our Huntsville veterinary clinic. Problems with orthopedic health can include any diseases, conditions or injuries affecting the skeletal structures of your dog's body, including their bones, tendon, ligaments, cartilage, joints and more. 

Though common in dogs of all shapes and sizes, certain dog breeds appear to 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. 

Below we look at four of the most common orthopedic health issues our vets see in dogs. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is characterized by one or more of your pup's hip joints being abnormally formed, leading the bones to grind against one another and breakdown—causing discomfort, pain and eventual loss of mobility and function in the affected joints.

This common orthopedic condition in dogs is typically genetic and is most often found in large to giant breeds of dog, including retrievers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, mastiffs and St. Bernards. While hip dysplasia is inherited, some factors affect the condition's development, including weight, nutrition, how quickly the dog grows and the kind of exercise they regularly participate in. 

There are three options when it comes to the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia, each with its 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. 

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries (ACL Injuries)

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 - also called the CCL or CrCL - is the canine equivalent to the ACL in people, connecting their shin to their thigh bone allowing the proper movement of their knee. 

A serious injury to your dog's CCL can happen suddenly and drastically through overexercise or gradually over a period of time when a minor injury is not sufficiently rested. This injury will become increasingly severe and more painful with activity over time and will lead to a dramatic reduction in your dog's ability to walk, run or even rise to standing. 

While this injury can happy to any dog, research shows that certain breeds may be more likely to develop it than others. As with Hip Dysplasia, large breeds are more likely to experience this injury, including Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiffs and Labrador retrievers. 

Since CCL injuries don't naturally heal, surgical intervention is required to reduce your pup's pain and help them to regain comfortable mobility. Surgical treatment options for CCL injuries include Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement. Although each of these surgeries takes a different approach, they all aim to stabilize your pet's knee joint, reduce tibial thrust and allow for them to move without pain.

Luxated Patella

Your dog's patella - or the kneecap - should normally sit comfortably in a groove above your pup'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 particular injury is common in many smaller dog breeds including 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 their patella to the rest of their leg, causing it to wear down and eventually allow it to dislocate inwards. 

Depending on the severity or grade of the condition, treatment can range from the prescription of anti-inflammatory medications to surgery. 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 abnormalities. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease, also commonly called IVDD, is a painful condition that affects your dog's spine. This condition is categorized into 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 dog although Type 1 is most commonly seen in smaller dogs such as dachshunds, Shih Tzus, toy poodles, beagles and basset hounds. Type 2 is incredibly common in middle-aged medium-to-large dogs.

IVDD is a degenerative condition often seen in dogs with longer bodies and short and curved legs. Any pup with those characteristics will be more likely to develop IVDD than others.

Spinal surgery is essential when it comes to treating IVDD, although some very mild cases may be treatable through restricted movement and pain-management medications. Sadly, many dogs with IVDD may never be able to walk again and have to rely on mobility devices to get around.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog suffering from a painful orthopedic condition? Contact our Huntsville vets today to learn more about surgical treatment options to help get your pup moving comfortably again. 

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