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Hereditary Orthopedic Diseases in Dogs by Mike Mathews

Hereditary Orthopedic Diseases in Dogs
 by: Mike Mathews
Do you ever read about a dog breed and discover that a particular breed can be prone to a number of diseases - most of which you can't understand? Are you in the process of choosing a dog and you want to know which breed-specific hereditary disease that the breeder should have screened out in the breeding stock?

Most breeders spend a lot of time and resources trying to get rid of genetic diseases in their lines. However, some amateur breeders and puppy mills are breeding dogs without screening the parents and perpetuating poor genetic health.

This article is not exhaustive but will attempt to describe some common hereditary musculoskeletal diseases and indicate some of the dog breeds that have shown a tendency to inherit these diseases in the past. Since so many dogs have inherited orthopedic problems, these disorders are extremely well researched and studied. If you want to check on a particular dog breed you can go to .dog-breed-facts.com and search on a particular breed for its health issues.

There are a number of common inherited diseases for which reputable breeders screen their breeding stock. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has specialists evaluate X-rays, DNA, thyroid, cardiac and other tests and register the results. A prospective pure-bred puppy buyer should ask to see the OFA results for the dog's sire and dam.

Chondrodysplasia or dwarfism in the legs is a disease that causes malformation of the carpal and radius bones of the front legs resulting in a stunted and bowed look. Puppies born with this disease do not show any signs until they grow older. The disease can be painful and often the only choice is to euthanize the dog. This disease is most common in the Alaskan malamute and the Beagle.

Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary disease in which the elbow joints of the front legs are malformed. Lameness usually makes its appearance around 7 to 10 months of age and is treated by anti-inflammatories and also surgery. All breeds are susceptible to the disease but it is most common in large male breeds. These breeds include the: Basset hound, Bernese mountain dog, Bloodhound, Bouvier des Flandres, Chow Chow, German shepherd, Golden retriever, Great Pyrenees, Irish wolfhound, Labrador retriever, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard and Weimaraner.

Hip dysplasia is a disorder that results when there is a loose fit of the 'ball and socket' hip joint and the ball may continuously slide part way out of the socket. Over time this will cause osteoarthritis in the joint and the dog will become lame and weak in the hind end. Some relief can be found with the use of nutriceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and anti-inflammatories. Some cases are so bad that the dog must have surgery or be euthanized. Ensuring that your dog isn't overfed and overweight can delay the onset of hip dysplasia. Larger breeds that grow fastest during the first four months seem to be more prone to this disease. Hip dysplasia is the most common inherited orthopedic disease in large and giant breeds and many medium-sized breeds as well.

Legg-Calve-Perthes is a disease of the hip joint where the ball or head of the femur deteriorates and causes pain and lameness in the hind leg. This disease usually affects young small dogs aged from 4 to 12 months. This condition is successfully treated by surgery. This disorder can affect all terriers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Miniature pinscher, Miniature poodles, Pugs and Toy poodles.

Panosteitis or 'pano' is a common condition which suddenly causes lameness in a growing puppy or adolescent dog. The lameness is a result of inflammation of the long bones of the front and hind legs and can be mild to severe. A veterinarian will probably prescribe pain medication and ask you to restrict exercise. Affected puppies usually grow out of the condition as they mature. It is most common in male medium- to giant-sized dog breeds which include the: Afghan Hound, Basset hound, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Labrador retriever and Rottweiler.

Luxating Patella (Patellar luxation) or slipped stifle is a hereditary condition where the knee cap slips out of its groove. In some cases, the kneecap will slip back into place while in other cases; a veterinarian may need to put it back in place. If it is not corrected through surgery, then osteoarthritis will usually result. The condition is quite prevalent in toy breeds. It is commonly seen in the Affenpinscher, Australian terrier, Basset hound, Boston terrier, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, English Toy Spaniel, Maltese, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Poodle (miniature and toy) and Lhasa Apso.


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