By Kristin Williams, DVM (AKA Dr. K at QK our on-site veterinarian!)
I recently attended an online veterinary educational event regarding orthopedic disease in dogs. The presenter stated a couple of things which really had an impact on me. They are:
1.) Up to 60% of dogs will ultimately suffer from osteoarthritis
2.) Osteoarthritis is mostly a disease that starts with YOUNG dogs
So…LOTS of dogs will have issues with arthritis, AND they are likely to be apparent at a young age.
The reason for this is that many of the issues that cause problems are developmental orthopedic abnormalities such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas (knee caps), OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans – bone disease where cartilage fails to mature properly), angular limb deformities, etc.
What can you do to help prevent these issues in your dogs, or if already present, what can you do to treat them?
First, if you are looking to purchase a dog, PLEASE make sure that the breeder has done appropriate screening tests for the breed. Here is a link that I have included in a previous newsletter with recommended genetic tests by breed:
NOTE that mixed breeds aren’t listed, but genetic issues can still be passed to the puppies, so adult testing before breeding would still be advised. Many “puppy mills” and other mixed dog breeders do not perform ANY screening tests on the parents. Ask for proof!
Second, if your young pup has an “occasional limp” that comes and goes, don’t ignore it! Bring it to your veterinarian’s attention so that the source can be identified and treated at a young age if at all possible. The sooner the better if there is something to be fixed, before arthritic changes start to develop.
Third, especially if you have a large breed dog, ask your veterinarian to perform screening radiographs of at least the hips (and elbows would be good also), which could be done at the time of spay or neuter if you plan to do so with your dog since he/she will already be sedated. Good radiographs (Xrays) are difficult to obtain in an awake dog, since the patient often resists having their limbs manipulated into position to get a diagostic image.
Fourth, consider starting your dog on a good quality researched joint supplement early in life if issues are present, or your dog is an extremely active competitor. I personally prefer Dasuquin, made by the company called Nutramax, which has done a TON of research on the efficacy of their products. Another excellent product is called Adequan. This joint medication is administered via a series of initial and maintenance injections. Adequan also has a significant amount of research backing its claim of efficacy.
Last, as I have harped upon previously, maintain your dog in a good, lean body condition. This is NUMBER ONE to help prevent/treat arthritis. I am sad to say that not all vets will recognize that a dog is FAT. So, here’s a link to a body condition scoring chart (which I have posted in previous newsletters) for your reference to help guide you to maintaining a happy, healthy dog!