Monthly Archives: September 2011

Hip Dysplasia

By definition, this is the abnormal development of the hip joint. The relationship of the head of the femur and the socket (acetabulum) of the hip and the associated ligaments and muscles is critical in the development of a normal hip. The larger breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia. These include: German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Great Danes and Rottweilers. However; other large breeds like Greyhounds and Borzoi rarely get the disease. It occasionally shows up in cats and even humans too. It has been proven that hip dysplasia is a genetic disease, and through selective breeding by responsible breeders, the disease is on the decline in many of the breeds listed. Obesity is a big factor and the muscular development of the dog is also very relevant. In the past, too much or too little calcium in the diet w as considered a factor, but today with completely balanced diets available, that rarely is a contributing factor. If the dog is genetically susceptible to have hip dysplasia, it may not show up with clinical symptoms if there is no weight problem and the dog has good muscular development and tone, especially in the hip area. Symptoms can begin at any time: from 4 months of age to maturity. These symptoms include lameness, abnormal gait of both back legs, difficulty getting up and lying down, pain and discomfort, reluctance to play, and stiffness. Radiographs are necessary to properly diagnose the disease, but these radiographs must be taken after one year of age, and to be certified, radiographs must be taken after age two. Hip dysplasia can be mild to severe and even cause a dislocation of the hip joint. Regardless of severity, osteoarthritis always develops. Treatment varies with the severity and symptoms. Major surgery is required in severe forms, followed with physical t herapy and restriction of certain exercise like jumping. If surgery is not an option because of economics, or the level of severity is considered mild, then medical treatment is prescribed. This includes NSAIDS, pain medications, joint improvement oral supplementation and physical exercise to build up the hip muscles and improve muscle tone. If you are considering purchasing one of these breeds, always request from the breeder OFA or PennHip certification showing the sire and dam is Hip Dysplasia free. This ensures that your new puppy will not be genetically susceptible to this disease.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

The ACL is the most important ligament in the stifle (knee) in both humans and animals. It is also the most frequently injured ligament in dogs. In fact, of all the orthopedic problems reported in dogs, injury to the ACL is the most common. There are many causes, the most common ones are obesity and acute trauma. For example: running a straight line chasing a tennis ball will rarely cause it, but, chasing a football does, because of the quick turns required to run down the football. There is a direct link to the anatomy of the leg which is of course dictated by genetics, as there is a critical relationship with the bone directly below the stifle, known as the tibia, and the knee cap tendon known as the patella tendon. If there is too much slope or an incorrect angle of the plateau or crest of the tibia the patella tendon does not function properly. This results in too much stress on the ACL and either a partial or complete tear ensues. Dogs can live with a partial tear of the ACL, but the healing process takes a long time and is tricky. First you need a very compliant patient who will listen to you.The other essentials are anti-inflammatory drugs, rest, time and luck. A minimum of 6 weeks is required of controlled exercise, meaning walks on a leash and no running, jumping, stairs, etc. Although it is reported that “virtually all partial tears progress to full tears over time”, in clinical practice I have seen a substantial number of dogs with partial tears not need surgery and heal completely. If there is a complete tear, also known as a ruptured anterior cruciate, surgery is definitely indicated. There are a number of very successful operations currently being done on complete tears and even on some partial tears as well. Regardless of which procedure is done, and whether a partial or complete tear is the problem, osteoarthritis usually develops at a later stage of life. However; there are many newer drugs available to veterinarians that not only alleviate pain and discomfort, but actually improve the arthritic condition of the joint. Weight loss is absolutely essential in the recovery process regardless of which tear is present.

Acanthosis Nigricans

This is the medical terminology of a certain skin disease that manifests itself with blackening of the skin and hair loss. The dark pigmentation usually starts in “friction” areas of the body like the armpits and groin, but may also be seen on the abdomen, chest, hock, forelimbs and anal area.  The skin may become thickened, greasy, smelly, and crusty, especially if not diagnosed early and treated. It is believed there is a hereditary link as it is seen more frequently in Dachshunds, Cockers, and Pugs. There are two forms of this disease: primary, which is mostly in young Dachshunds under one year of age and considered treatable but not curable, and secondary, which is the result of other causes such as yeast and bacterial infections which are curable, once the cause is eliminated. Other possible causes  include: hypothyroidism, allergic dermatitis, mange, and obesity. Both forms of this disease can be treated and although the primary one is considered  not curable, the symptoms can be lessened and the dog made more comfortably. If hypothyroidism is involved, supplementation with synthetic thyroid is required along with other treatment regimens mentioned below. Allergic dermatitis is the most common cause which could be from food, inhalants like pollen, or from direct contact with something the body is allergic to. Obesity is becoming more and more the culprit as it is so much more common than years ago. With obesity come excess folds of skin, fat, and friction areas. Friction leads to inflammation, infection, and the deposit of the black pigment known as “melanin”, thus the dark appearance of the skin. Once the cause is established, the therapy consists of frequent medicated baths, corticosteroids to relieve the inflammation and scratching, antibiotics for infection, and of course weight loss if necessary. In some cases, Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to help in the recovery process.

Patella Luxation

This condition is commonly known as a Trick Knee. It is mostly found in small breeds such as Maltese, Toy and Miniature Poodles, Pomeranians, Pugs, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Bichons, and many of the small “designer breeds”, like Malti-poos. Although it can occur as the result of an injury, it usually doesn’t, and it is considered to be a hereditary disease. It also occurs more in overweight dogs as a result of the excess stress placed on the knees. There are 2 stabilizing ligaments of the patella (knee cap), known as the lateral and medial patella ligaments. The patella sits within a groove at the end of the femur, known as the trochlear groove. Those dogs destined to have this condition, are either born with weak or missing ligament(s), a shallow trochlear groove, and/or malformed bones. If one of these ligaments break, or is weak, the opposite ligament pulls the patella out of the groove and the dog limps or can not put the leg down. Usually it is the lateral (outside) ligament that is the culprit, and the medial ligament stays intact and pulls. Most of the time this is temporary and the patella “pops” back into the groove. In time the inside groove wears down as the patella pops in and out more frequently. If and when the patella “locks” out of place and the dog can not put its leg down, surgery must be performed. First, radiographs are taken to make sure nothing else is broken, and with sedation, determine if the other ligaments in the joint, namely the cruciate ligaments, are intact. When trauma is the cause, and the ligament, bone or cartilage is not broken, rest, time, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain medications is all that is needed. Many dogs can live with this condition even though arthritis and cartilage damage may occur later in life. There are many excellent medications to alleviate inflammation, pain and discomfort and some even improve the continuity of the joint by the stimulating the production of new cartilage cells and synovial fluid.