April 28, 2006


Hereditary Orthopedic Diseases in Dogs



Do you ever read about a dog breed and discover that a particular breed can be prone to a number ofdiseases – most of which you can’t understand? Are you in theprocess of choosing a dog and you want to know whichbreed-specific hereditary disease that the breeder should havescreened out in the breeding stock?

Most breeders spend a lot of time and resources trying to getrid of genetic diseases in their lines. However, some amateurbreeders and puppy mills are breeding dogs without screening theparents and perpetuating poor genetic health.

This article is not exhaustive but will attempt to describe somecommon hereditary musculoskeletal diseases and indicate some ofthe dog breeds that have shown a tendency to inherit thesediseases in the past. Since so many dogs have inheritedorthopedic problems, these disorders are extremely wellresearched and studied. If you want to check on a particular dogbreed you can go to dog breed facts and search on a particularbreed for its health issues.

There are a number of common inherited diseases for whichreputable breeders screen their breeding stock. The OrthopedicFoundation 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 OFAresults for the dog’s sire and dam.

Chondrodysplasia or dwarfism in the legs is a disease thatcauses malformation of the carpal and radius bones of the frontlegs resulting in a stunted and bowed look. Puppies born withthis disease do not show any signs until they grow older. Thedisease can be painful and often the only choice is to euthanizethe dog. This disease is most common in the Alaskan malamute andthe Beagle.

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

Hip dysplasia is a disorder that results when there is a loosefit of the ‘ball and socket’ hip joint and the ball maycontinuously slide part way out of the socket. Over time thiswill cause osteoarthritis in the joint and the dog will becomelame and weak in the hind end. Some relief can be found with theuse of nutriceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin, andanti-inflammatories. Some cases are so bad that the dog musthave surgery or be euthanized. Ensuring that your dog isn’toverfed and overweight can delay the onset of hip dysplasia.Larger breeds that grow fastest during the first four monthsseem to be more prone to this disease. Hip dysplasia is the mostcommon inherited orthopedic disease in large and giant breedsand many medium-sized breeds as well.

Legg-Calve-Perthes is a disease of the hip joint where the ballor head of the femur deteriorates and causes pain and lamenessin the hind leg. This disease usually affects young small dogsaged from 4 to 12 months. This condition is successfully treatedby surgery. This disorder can affect all terriers, Chihuahuas,Dachshunds, Miniature pinscher, Miniature poodles, Pugs and Toypoodles.

Panosteitis or ‘pano’ is a common condition which suddenlycauses lameness in a growing puppy or adolescent dog. Thelameness is a result of inflammation of the long bones of thefront and hind legs and can be mild to severe. A veterinarianwill probably prescribe pain medication and ask you to restrictexercise. Affected puppies usually grow out of the condition asthey mature. It is most common in male medium- to giant-sizeddog 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 ahereditary condition where the knee cap slips out of its groove.In some cases, the kneecap will slip back into place while inother cases; a veterinarian may need to put it back in place. Ifit is not corrected through surgery, then osteoarthritis willusually 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 CharlesSpaniel, English Toy Spaniel, Maltese, Papillon, Pekingese,Pomeranian, Poodle (miniature and toy) and Lhasa Apso.

There are many more hereditary diseases that are prevalent in a number ofdog breeds. Contact your breed’s national breed club for a listof the most common inherited genetic diseases.

About the author:

Mike Mathews is a contributing writer and editor for the populardog breed site: http://www.dog-breed-facts.com. He providesinformative, real-world advice and tips on dog breeds, doghealth , doggrooming and more.

Mike Mathews

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