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Taking a pounding: how our dogs are increasingly being treated for joint problems

Taking a pounding: how our dogs are increasingly being treated for joint problems

It is no wonder that dogs suffer from problems with their joints. They do take a lot of pounding. All that weight on those thin legs chasing after balls, leaping out of cars, jumping up onto the steps and ledges.


For some dogs it does take a big toll. More injuries come from more use and more injuries can lead to more problems, including osteoarthritis and anterior cruciate ligament tears (ACL). These are not only painful for dogs they can do a lot of damage to your wallet too when the vet fees come in.So what is new in our knowledge of canine joint problems and more importantly what is the latest way of treating these all too common problems?


Crucial cruciate

Joint problems in dogs come in two major categories:


Degenerative and Developmental. With degenerative a problem the most common, which also is the major cause of arthritis in dogs, involves cruciate ligaments.
In active younger dogs this can be caused by chasing squirrels or foxes and trying to turn too quickly when in hot pursuit, but in older dogs the ligament are prone to degenerating over a period of time and this can cause secondary osteoarthritis and instability.


In terms of developmental problems, dogs suffer things like elbow or hip dyspepsia, which is where the joints don't develop in the correct way. To spot joint problems look out for your dogs not being as active as usual or having problems with the things they do normally. Does your dog have difficulty jumping onto the sofa, climbing the stairs, or climbing into the car. More athletic dogs may suddenly show signs of reluctance when they would normally go out running with their owner, or they sit down rather than frolic about when they go to the  dog park.


Watch for the early signs


These are the early signs from where problems can progress to full-on lameness, where dogs hold their legs up or hobble in a funny position. Overt pain is rarely the first complaint.
Some breeds are definitely more prone to joint problems than others. Generally what predisposes an animal to joint issues is a larger size, and increased weight. But breed does play a role too with individual problems.


Bigger is not always best


For example, the big blousy Newfoundland has the highest preponderance of cruciate ligament disease of all dog breeds. With ankle and knee problems it is the Rottweiler that takes centre stage. With elbow dysplasia it is the Bernese Mountain dog that suffers most. Improved diagnostics and health care have both led to it seeming that an increasing number of dogs are undergoing treatments for their joints. It is not that there are more problems. We simply know more to treat them more often.


People are generally paying their dogs more attention and seeking care more often and earlier. There is also an element of joint problems being caused by breeding issues as a result of breeders seeking to create the characteristics they choose. This can lead to the breeding of less desirable traits, including orthopedic issues.


The most common treatments for joint problems like osteoarthritis can vary and are typically divided into non-operative and surgical treatments, which can range from total joint replacement to a joint's arthroscopic cleaning.

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