Common Orthopedic Problems in Dogs

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 Seattle 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 problems are a common reason for dogs visiting our veterinary referral hospital. Orthopedic veterinary issues include any diseases, conditions, or injuries affecting your dog's skeletal structures, such as 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 Seattle area. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which one or more of your puppy's hip joints form abnormally, causing them to grind against each other. This causes them to break down over time, resulting in discomfort, pain, and eventual loss of mobility and function in the affected joints.

Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition that most commonly affects large to giant dog breeds such as retrievers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, mastiffs, and St. Bernards. While hip dysplasia is inherited, some factors influence its development in dogs, including weight, nutrition, how quickly they grow, and the type of exercise they regularly engage 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 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. 

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 occur in any dog that overexerts itself, research indicates that certain breeds are more likely than others to develop it. Large breeds, like Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, Mastiffs, and Labrador retrievers, are more likely to suffer from this injury.

Because CCL injuries do not heal on their own, surgical intervention is required to relieve your dog's pain and help them regain mobility. Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement are all options. While each of these procedures is unique, they all aim to stabilize your pet's knee joint, reduce tibial thrust, and allow them to move freely.

Luxated Patella

The patella, or kneecap, is normally found in a groove above your dog's knee between the femur and shin. Luxating describes something that is out of place or dislocated. When your dog has a luxating patella, their kneecap has dislocated, and you may notice them limping, skipping a step, or running on three legs.

This injury is relatively common in many smaller breeds of dogs, such as French Poodles, Bichon Frise, Chihuahuas, and Maltese, all of which have a genetic proclivity to dislocate their knees. This is frequently reflected in the position of the ligament that connects the patella to the rest of the leg, causing it to wear down and eventually allow the patella 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 can be found in dogs of all sizes. Type 1 diabetes is most common in smaller dogs such as dachshunds, Shih Tzus, toy poodles, beagles, and basset hounds. However, it can also appear in medium and larger dogs. Type 2 is extremely prevalent in middle-aged medium-to-large dogs. IVDD is a degenerative condition caused by body types such as short and curved legs. Any puppy with those characteristics is more likely than others to develop IVDD.

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.

Do you think your dog may be suffering from or at risk of an orthopedic health problem? Contact Madison Park Veterinary Hospital today for more information about diagnosis and orthopedic surgeries for these serious conditions.