Canine Musculoskeletal Disorders

There are a number of muscle, bone and joint problems that affect all breeds of dog. Accidents or infections may cause inflammation and loss of movement, but the dog's musculoskeletal system is hardy until it becomes subject to the degenerative processes of old age. On rare occasions, a dog will suffer the loss of movement in a joint because of infection, accident, inflammation, or excessive connective tissue. Many dog breeds are genetically predisposed to orthopedic diseases.

Older dogs suffer from arthritis (inflammation of the bone at a joint) much more than younger ones, although it may afflict dogs of any age. With arthritis, the dog feels pain on walking and jumping. Often there is swelling around the joint, and the dog's discomfort is more severe in damp weather. The condition must be treated by a veterinarian. Home treatment consists of half aspirin as a pain killer (repeated as needed) and warm packs on the sore joint. Restrict the dog's activity and keep him in a warm, dry room away from drafts.

Rheumatism is a disease that causes pain in the joints and muscles. This should not be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, a systemic disease involving the joints that is still poorly understood. The symptoms of rheumatism are very often similar to those of arthritis. The dog will experience pain on walking and jumping, and extreme discomfort in wet weather. The most prevalent types are inflammatory or acute articular rheumatism and muscular rheumatism, which is accompanied by muscular pain. In the rare case of pulmonary rheumatism, the dog's breathing may be affected. The rheumatism must be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Home care consists of half an aspirin to relieve pain (repeat as needed) and heat pads on the afflicted area. Keep your dog in a warm, dry, draught-free room.

Congenital hip dysplasia is a malformation of the ball and socket of the hip, existing at birth or before. The defect may vary from a bad fit to an outright dislocation of the hip. Saint Bernards and German Shepherds seem to suffer from this condition more than any other breeds, although medium-sized breeds are affected. The disease can be recognized when the dog is 5 to 6 months old, although the only sure way to know is to have a veterinarian X-ray the hip. Dogs with the disease are usually lame, unwilling to get up, and unable to stand straight when they do. When sitting, they often stretch their hind legs to the side. The defect varies from mild to severe and may cause great pain. Dogs with hip dysplasia should be exercised only moderately and their weight kept down to a minimum. Also, they should not be bred because this is a genetically determined disease.


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