A happy dog is one that can jump, run and play all day long. However, some dogs / puppies have joint problems that need to be tended to and if caught early enough can be repaired with few problems.
Puppies, during their growth period seem to have the most orthopedic problems. The word orthopedic means "marked by or affected with a deformity, disorder, or injury of the skeleton and associated structures." In order for a puppy to grow into a strong and active dog, the bones, cartilage, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments must function properly. The earlier that any deformity is noticed, the easier and quicker it can be repaired.
What are common joint problems in puppies? Puppies from two months to 6 months of age may show signs of orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and luxating (dislocating) patellae (the dog's knee cap dislocates and is found in both the front and back legs.)
Older puppies (7 to 12 months) can be affected by several problems such as:
Luxating patella, which is condition usually found in small breeds that causes the dog to be running and playing one minute and the next minute it might yelp in pain and limp around for a few minutes and then be fine the next. In some cases it can be severe. Treatment in normal cases can be some anti-inflammatory medication taken as needed and in severe cases surgery may be needed. X-rays maybe needed to determine the seriousness of the condition.
Panosteitis is a bone disease of dogs that is characterized by bone proliferation and remodeling. It is lameness that often comes and goes and can move from leg to leg, It is common in large breeds and the cause is unknown. It is very painful and can last for as long as 18 months, though it commonly lasts only 2 t 5 months. Treatment is rest and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Male dogs are more apt to get panosteitis than females and German Shepherds, Great Danes and Dobermans seem to have a higher degree of this condition.
Osteochondritis dissecans, commonly known as OCD is a disease of the cartilage that affects the joints in a dog's body.
What is OCD? Whenever 2 bones meet there is a smooth area of cartilage covering the surface and acts as a cushion between the two bones. Any damage to the cartilage that disrupts this movement creates pain for the dog. In OCD this cartilage can become damaged or may even have grown abnormally, which can cause it to crack or separate instead of being a smooth covering. It has even been known to break off and float free in the joint. The interesting thing is these pieces do not die they continue to grow and are called joint mice.
Approximately 15 percent of all dogs will develop OCD. It is generally found in large or giant breed dogs, but it has also been reported in small dogs and cats, though it is not very common. It is also another condition that affects more male dogs than female dogs and often occurs between the ages of 4 and 8 months of age.
Treatment in most cases is surgery, however in some cases forced rest and anti-inflammatory drugs will help.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) is another disease that affects large rapidly growing large breed dogs. This disease produces severe lameness and pain and usually affects several limbs at one time. The cause at this time is unknown.
It usually strikes puppies between the ages of 3 to 6 months and like OCD it usually strikes more male dogs than females. It is not an inherited or a genetic disease and it does not seem to affect one breed over another.
Symptoms are usually mild to moderate painful swelling of the growth plates in the leg bones, the long bones from the elbow to the wrist and the long bone from the knee to the hock. Dogs may show reluctance to move, show lameness, act lethargic, and refuse to eat or run a temperature up to 106 degrees. The disease usually affect both legs and may possibly resolve itself on its own, however a very high fever for a long period of time and if the bony involvement is severe, the dog may suffer permanent structural damage or even die.
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCP) is a disorder of hip joint conformation that affects both humans and dogs. It is found most often in the miniature and toy breeds between the ages of 4 months to a year. LCP is believed to be an inherited disease and dogs who have it should not be used for breeding purposes.
LCP shows up as a gradual disuse of a rear leg with pain and stiffness of a hip joint. An x-ray is usually needed to determine the seriousness of the degeneration within the femoral head (part of the hip joint). Treatment usually requires surgery and physical therapy.
If your puppy shows any sign of a skeletal deformity, the sooner you take care of it, the better it is for your puppy. Some types of deformities can be cured with surgery, while degenerative problems like joint disease of elbow dysplasia can not be corrected by surgery, but can be treated most often medically.
There are disorders of the bone and joint tissues that can be caused by bacterial infections such as Lyme disease or Staphylococcus bacteria. Genetic defects can also cause a number of problems. Treatment is wholly dependent on getting a correct diagnosis of the condition your puppy is suffering from.
Injuries can count for many orthopedic problems in many puppies. Injuries that have not been properly taken care of can cause a dog a series of life long problems. It is important never to push a puppy into a physical exercise that is beyond its capability. You can cause a great deal of harm to the bone structure of the puppy.
It is a challenge for you, as the owner and for your vet to discover and identify any abnormalities as early as possible in order to have appropriate care given to the puppy.
This information is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it has helped in some small way to keep you informed of things you should be on the look out for.