ALL CREATURES ANIMAL CLINIC, LTD.
Mark Hale, DVM
COMMON CAUSES OF LAMENESS IN DOGS
There are many different orthopedic conditions that can cause lameness in dogs. I will briefly discuss the three most common of these conditions. Knowing a little about these conditions can help you if you are looking for that special dog to call your own.
The most common orthopedic surgery performed by veterinarians today is for repair of a ruptured cruciate ligament. The anatomy of the canine knee is very similar to a human's and we probably all know someone who has had this surgery. This condition usually starts as a sudden onset of a severe lameness in one rear leg. The cruciate ligament helps give stability to the knee therefore preventing "pinching" and pain of the menisci. If not repaired soon after injury, painful arthritis will very likely occur. Medications can be used to help with the arthritis, but it is much better to have surgery performed to help prevent the painful arthritis from starting. The most common breeds affected include mixed breeds (27%), Labradors (16%), Rottweilers (9.7%), and Golden Retrievers (6%). Being overweight also increases the chances of this condition occurring.
Patella luxation is a very common condition which is inherited. This can be diagnosed as early as eight weeks of age. All puppies should be checked by your veterinarian. This condition most commonly occurs in small breed dogs with the patella (kneecap) out of position on the inside of the knee. The opposite sometimes occurs in large breed dogs. Any dog with this condition should not be used for breeding. Surgery can be done to correct this condition. A chronic progressive arthritis will follow if correction isn't done. Potential problems like this, is one reason you should have any new puppy examined within a few days after you get it. If you purchased your pup from a reputable breeder, they should stand behind your purchase, but that may be for only a few days.
Hip dsyplasia is another commonly inherited orthopedic disease of dogs. Dysplastic dogs have a laxity, or looseness, in the structures that hold the hip joint tightly in place. Over time, this laxity causes arthritic changes to occur. Signs of hip dysplasia include stiff gait, reluctance to jump, pain when the hips are extended, and slowness to stand. Some become so painful, they won't even walk. I have seen pups as young as four months of age with this condition so bad that they were already in severe pain. More commonly, the signs don't appear until middle age. The breeds most often affected with hip dysplasia include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd, but any "large breed" dog can be affected with this condition. If you are considering purchasing a large breed puppy, I would recommend that you ask about OFA certification of the parents. While OFA is not a perfect system, it does greatly increase your chances of having a "dysplasia-free" dog for many years to come. The vast majority of pet breeders that I deal with take pride in the quality of their puppies and do their very best to avoid health problems like this. However, the sad truth is that when I have talked to other breeders of some of these afflicted pups, they deny that this is an inherited disease and continue to breed the parents. As you can imagine, breeders like this are extremely frustrating to veterinarians.
Hopefully, this short discussion will help you understand these conditions. If you have further questions, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Hale. After all, a long happy, healthy life is what we want for ourselves and our family, including our pets.