Most Common Orthopedic Issues for Dogs: Orthopedic problems in dogs are commonly seen in a busy animal practice. We are becoming a more active society and often include our dog friends in our athletic pursuits. Running, chasing a ball or catching a Frisbee are all good forms of exercise for dogs but can also result in injuries. We are also seeing more purebred dogs with all their great attributes but we see the less desirable traits that come with that breeding. Many breeds have now become genetically pre-disposed to muscular and skeletal problems. The four most common orthopedic problems found in dogs are hip displaysia, torn cruciate ligaments, patellar luxations, and disc problems. Here is a brief description of what these conditions are and how to tell if your pet may have this problem.
Hip Dysplasia: A genetic disease, hip dysplasia is influenced by a number of factors. It is a much more common in large breed dogs such as German Shepherd Dogs, Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Treatment often involves lifetime anti-inflammatory medications which can run $2 to $3 dollars a day. If the hips develop extensive arthritis, often titanium joint replacements need to be used. Preventative measures are the key and weight plays a huge role in the expression of hip dysplasia. It has been shown keeping your dog lean can decrease dysplasia by up to 30%. Weight reduction is the number one pain reliever in dogs and people.
Cruciate Ligament Tears: How many times do you read in the paper about your favorite football player out for the season with an ACL tear? ACL stands for anterior cranial cruciate and it is the ligament that keeps the knee in working order. Well, instead of a big linebacker taking out your dog’s knee it is more likely a squirrel or rabbit that your dog took chase (which he never catches!). The squirrel zigs, the dog zags and there goes the knee! Torn cruciate ligaments, just like in people need to be surgically repaired to prevent crippling arthritis. There are many different types of surgical procedures and the type used will vary depending on the dog.
Luxating Patellas: Knee cap problems are commonly seen in many breeds of dogs. The kneecap, or patella, rests in a groove. Smaller dog’s patella’s tend to slip out of the groove to the inside, and this is known as medial patellar luxation. Medial patellar luxation in small dogs can often be repaired successfully. In larger dogs, the patella, generally slips to the outside or laterally. These dogs often have other more involved problems with the bones of the leg as well and thus repair can be more complicated and is usually more costly.
Disc Disease: Just as with many of us, our dogs also can have disc problems in their neck and backs. Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Dachshunds and Lhasa Apsos are all breeds that can suffer from neck disc issues, whereas large breed dogs often have chronic lower back issues. Most of these cases can be treated conservatively with the same medications used to treat hip dysplasia. When discs become ruptured, they become surgical emergencies. The disc material can slip into the spinal canal or nerves causing intense pain or even paralysis. These surgeries need to be done often within hours in order to get good results so if you suspect a disc injury to your pet, call the vet immediately to have them seen. Cats can also experience the same orthopedic conditions that are listed above such as Arthritis, Luxating Patellas, Disc Disease, Ligament Tears, and they are also prone to injuries of the tail because of how their tails are used and the length of them. Treatment of these injuries is very different than in dogs and your vet is the best person to speak with if you have concerns that your cat may be suffering from an orthopedic condition.