There’s no doubt that many of our canine companions are pretty hardy and agile, performing stunts that we would only dream about without any care for the consequences despite many dogs suffering from a range of common joint injuries!
Unbeknown to them, their bodies aren’t that different to ours, prone to injuries or born with a weakness that, if left untreated, can cause chronic pain and a reduction in quality of life.
Common joint injuries in dogs include: cruciate injury, elbow dysplasia, slipped discs in back and hip dysplasia whilst there are some breeds are also prone to specific ailments.
If you follow football then you’ve probably heard about cruciate ligament tears! Our pooches aren’t playing footy but they can be very prone to this injury no matter their size or breed.
The cruciate ligaments are located in the knee joint and consist of two ligaments in a cross configuration (cruciate is latin for cross). These ligaments cleverly stop our femur from sliding around over our humerus as we stop and start and twist and turn. If our dog puts too much pressure on these ligaments then one or both will rupture causing instability of the joint and pain. The shock absorber pad in the knee called the meniscus can also be torn and this causes more pain.
Anyone who has experienced a torn cruciate ligament will attest to the pain it causes and our dogs are no different. Just like us, they require surgery to stabilise the joint. Surgery carries an excellent prognosis and along with post operative physiotherapy prevents painful deterioration of the knee joint, loss of muscle tone and a return to normal activity. Without surgery most dogs will suffer from ongoing pain and almost certainly have trouble with osteoarthritis down the track.
Elbow and hip dysplasia are common in breeds such as the Labrador. Affected dogs are born with poor configuration of these joints and quickly suffer from pain and lameness. Surgery to correct abnormalities of the hip and elbow have progressed enormously and specialist veterinary surgeons are now performing very advanced procedures to treat affected dogs.
Back injury can occur in any dog but certain breeds such as Dachshunds are more prone to slipped discs (intervertebral disc disease). If left untreated many affected dogs will become completely paralysed in the hind legs. Surgery usually needs to be carried out quickly once symptoms arise to quickly remove the pressure on the sensitive spinal cord and increase the prognosis. This surgery isn’t without cost and is usually only carried out by a specialist veterinary surgeon.
Most of these ailments occur without warning and costly treatment is often required quite rapidly to ensure your furry friend has the best possible prognosis.
Ensuring you have your dog covered as early in life as possible with the right level of pet insurance cover, and before they present any symptoms, can help take the worry out of treatment decisions and allows you to concentrate on getting your pal back to good health.
About the Author: Dr Melissa Meehan BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Int Med)
Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service vetophthalmology.com.au