Skip to Main Content

Common Orthopedic Problems in Dogs

Common Orthopedic Problems in Dogs

Besides keeping your dog happy, exercise is good for their physical health, so when orthopedic conditions affect their mobility, it impacts their overall well-being. Here, our Danbury vets share some common orthopedic injuries seen in dogs.

Orthopedic health issues are commonly seen in dogs. Any diseases, conditions, or injuries affecting the skeletal structures of your dog's body, including their bones, tendon, ligaments, cartilage, joints, and more fall under an orthopedic disease or condition.

While these kinds of health issues are relatively common in dogs of all shapes and sizes, certain breeds of dog may be predisposed to particular kinds of orthopedic health problems and large dogs tend to develop issues with their bones and joints in particular as they grow old since they have to carry around more weight.

Below are five of the most common orthopedic health issues that affect dogs:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia describes when one or more of your pup's hip joints form abnormally, causing them to grind against one another. Over time, this leads to their breakdown—causing discomfort, pain, and eventual loss of mobility and function in the affected joints.

Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition that is most often found in large to giant breeds of dogs, including Retrievers, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, and St. Bernards. Although it is inherited, some factors affect the development of hip dysplasia in dogs, including weight, nutrition, how quickly they grow, and the kind of exercise they regularly participate in.

Hip dysplasia is treated through orthopedic surgery to help restore the function and mobility of your pup's affected hips. There are three options for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia, each with its unique benefits: Femoral head osteotomy (FHO), a double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO), and a total hip replacement (THR). THR offers the best outcomes while FHO surgery is generally the lowest price point.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease, also commonly called IVDD, affects your dog's spine. Although this disease can affect any size dog, certain breed characteristics like short or curved legs and elongated backs make some dogs tend towards one of three types of IVDD:

Type 1 occurs when a dog's spinal disc ruptures anywhere in their back, causing a sudden inability to walk. This type of IVDD is most commonly seen in smaller dogs such as Toy Poodles, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Beagles, and Basset Hounds.

Type 2 is slow, wherein a portion of the outer part of your dog's spinal cord begins bulging, compressing the spine and potentially causing a Type 1 rupture. This type of IVDD is very common in middle-aged medium- to large-sized dogs.

Type 3 is a sudden tear in the outer part of the spine caused by excessive exercise or physical trauma.

If your dog is diagnosed with IVDD, they'll likely need surgery to treat it. Some very mild cases may be treatable through restricted movement and pain-management medications, but some dogs with IVDD may not be able to walk without mobility devices to get around.

Torn Cruciate Ligament

Just like after overly vigorous exercise or repeated injuries in people, our dogs can strain and even tear tendons or ligaments. The Cranial Cruciate Ligament, (CCL) is the canine equivalent of the ACL in people. This important tendon connects your dog's shin to their thigh bone to allow the proper movement of their knee.

A serious injury like tearing your dog's CCL can happen in one of two ways. The first is suddenly and drastically through overexercise. The second is gradually over a period of time without allowing the affected joint to rest and recover (after all, dogs can't tell us when a sprain is developing). If your pup continues to run and play with an injured ligament, it becomes likely that they will injure it further.

While this injury can be happy for any dog who is overexerting themselves, research shows that certain breeds may be more likely to develop it than others. Like hip dysplasia, large species are more likely to experience this injury, including Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, Mastiffs, and Labrador Retrievers.

CCL injuries won't naturally heal without intervention, and surgery is usually required to reduce your pet's pain and help them regain mobility. Your options include Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement. While each of these surgeries takes different approaches, they all aim to stabilize your pet's knee joint, reduce tibial thrust, and allow your dog to move without pain.

Luxated Patella

The patella, or the kneecap, normally sits comfortably in a groove above your dog's knee between their femur and shin. Luxation refers to something being dislocated or in the wrong place; you may notice that your dog with a luxating patella is limping, skipping a step, or using only three legs. 

Smaller breeds of dogs like French Poodles, Bichon Frise, Chihuahuas, and Maltese, all have some amount of genetic predisposition to dislocating their knees. This often is reflected in the location of the ligament that connects the patella to the rest of the leg, causing it to wear down and eventually allow it to dislocate inwards.

Depending on the severity (also known as the Grade of the condition), treatment may range from the prescription of anti-inflammatory medication to surgical intervention. Surgeries to treat a luxating patella may reconstruct soft tissues in the area to help keep the patella in place, deepening the groove the patella naturally sits in to keep it stationary or correcting abnormally shaped bones to reduce deformities.

Arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease) 

Whether due to aging or other orthopedic diseases, arthritis is extremely common among dogs. Dogs with arthritis, which is the swelling and inflammation of the joints, experience stiffness and pain in their legs, elbows, shoulders, and other joints, avoid exercise and play, and may have trouble getting up, jumping, or climbing up stairs. Even healthy dogs may develop arthritis as they get older, and there are several treatments from vet-prescribed pain relief to anti-inflammatories, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, cold laser therapy, and more. 

No matter what condition is affecting your pooch, your veterinarian or vet specialist will work with you to ensure that your dog receives the best care and maintains a good quality of life during treatment. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing signs of an orthopedic injury? Contact our Danbury vets to have your pup examined and diagnosed.

New Patients Welcome

Are you looking for a veterinarian for your cat or dog in Danbury? Mill Plain Veterinary Clinic is now accepting new patients! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

(203) 790-8387 Contact