*The following was originally printed in the Metropolitan Dog Club’s 2010 Blue Book.
Charlie, a 5 year old mixed breed was Sharon’s best pal and exercise buddy. Together the two would jog a couple of miles a day and on weekends hike the nearby hills. But recently, Charlie was not as enthusiastic about their workouts as he had been. In fact, he was even having difficulty standing from a lying down position. Sharon took Charlie to the vet, who considered orthopedic disorders of the hip, forelimb and knee as part of the dog’s reluctance to run.
The following blog post is part three of a three-part series about orthopedic disorders found in our pets — how they are manifested, potential methods of diagnosis and treatments. The decision to pursue these treatments would typically be made in concert with a canine orthopedic specialist and a canine rehabilitation specialist.
Shoulder OCD – Osteochondrosis (OC) or osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) is a developmental orthopedic disease affecting young, large breed dogs. An area of bone fails to mature and mineralize properly, creating a thickened area of cartilage within the joint. The thickened cartilage becomes susceptible to injury from normal activity and can form a flap of cartilage exposing the underlying bone. The shoulder joint is the most common site for OCD. Genetics plays a role in the development of this disease and affected dogs should not be bred.
Dogs with OCD typically begin to show lameness before 12 months of age and the diagnosis is made by localizing pain to the shoulder and confirming the abnormality on x-rays. Treatment includes arthroscopic removal of the cartilage flap. While most dogs fully recover, nearly all develop OA in the joint.
Elbow Dysplasia – Elbow dysplasia is a group of developmental orthopedic diseases that includes: fragmented medial coronoid process (FMCP), ununited anconeal process (UAP), OCD, and incongruous growth between the bones that form the joint (radioulnar or humero-ulnar). The cause is unknown, but genetics are strongly implicated and affected dogs should not be bred. Cartilage degradation and fragmentation of a portion of the ulnar bone results in FMCP, the most common manifestation of elbow dysplasia. FMCP affects young, large breed dogs. UAP and OCD are diagnosed with an x-ray, FMCP and incongruity often require a CT scan, MRI, or arthroscopic evaluation of the joint. Treatment includes arthroscopic evaluation of the joint for removal of cartilage defects, fragments, and flaps and correcting the incongruity of the joint. Some cases of UAP can be treated with surgical reattachment of anconeal process. Formation and progression of OA is inevitable, but most dogs can have a comfortable and functional life. Some dogs may require osteoarthritic medications to maintain comfort.
Like all of us, our dogs sustain minor sprains and strains that require no medical treatment. However, if your dog is a known breed at risk for developmental orthopedic disorders, or if you notice your dog’s condition persists or worsens, it is important to consult a veterinary specialist to determine if invention is required. Early diagnosis and treatment can help limit the severity of the injury and help reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.
Rehabilitation therapy plays a role in the management of orthopedic diseases as an adjunct to surgery or in cases not requiring surgery. Low impact exercise, including work on an underwater treadmill to provide buoyancy to the limbs as the pet works to regain strength and stamina, can be very beneficial to recovery. Deep tissue ultrasound and electrostimulation are also gaining in popularity for the treatment of canine musculo-skeletal disorders. Acupuncture benefits many dogs with orthopedic diseases.
If your pet appears to be having trouble standing, walking or running, please consider consulting an orthopedic specialist at The Animal Medical Center. The AMC also provides rehabilitation therapy and acupuncture for dogs with orthopedic disorders. To make an appointment, call 212.838.7053 today.
About the Authors:
Dr. Marc Havig, DACVS is currently a staff surgeon at The Animal Medical Center, and the interim Chair of the Department of Surgery. Dr. Havig specializes in orthopedic surgery and has a special interest in canine sports-related injuries.
Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, certified in both Oncology and Small Animal Internal Medicine. She has over 20 years of experience as a practicing veterinary oncologist in New York City.
For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.