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Five of The Most Common Orthopedic Problems in Dogs

Any dog parent's heart will melt when they see their pup run, jump, and race around outside. This activity, and all of its health benefits, can be halted or exacerbated by health issues affecting their bones, joints, tendons, or ligaments. Our Mechanicsburg veterinarians explain four of the most common orthopedic health issues in dogs, as well as which breeds are prone to them and how they can be treated.

Orthopedic health problems are a common reason for dogs visiting our veterinary referral hospital. Orthopedic veterinary issues include any diseases, conditions, or injuries affecting your dog's skeletal structures, such as their bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, joints, and more.

While these types of health problems are fairly common in dogs of all shapes and sizes, certain breeds of dog may be predisposed to specific types of orthopedic health problems, and large dogs, in particular, tend to develop issues with their bones and joints as they age because they have to carry around more weight.

Here are four of the most common orthopedic health issues that affect dogs in the Mechanicsburg area. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which one or more of your puppy's hip joints form abnormally, causing them to grind against each other. This causes them to break down over time, resulting in discomfort, pain, and eventual loss of mobility and function in the affected joints.

Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition that most commonly affects large to giant dog breeds such as retrievers, bulldogs, Rottweilers, mastiffs, and St. Bernards. While hip dysplasia is inherited, some factors influence its development in dogs, such as weight, nutrition, how quickly they grow, and the type of exercise they regularly engage in.

Hip dysplasia is treated through orthopedic surgery designed 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, A Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy, and a Total Hip Replacement. THR offers the best outcomes while FHO surgery is generally the lowest price point. 

Torn Cruciate Ligament

Our dogs' tendons and ligaments can strain and even tear as a result of over-vigorous exercise or repeated injury, just as they do in humans. The Cranial Cruciate Ligament, or CCL, is the canine equivalent of the ACL in humans, connecting the shin to the thigh bone and allowing proper knee movement.

A severe injury, such as tearing your dog's CCL, can occur in one of two ways. The first occurs abruptly and dramatically as a result of overexercising. The second is to gradually increase the amount of time spent without resting to aid in the recovery of a mildly injured ligament. If your dog continues to run and play with an injured ligament, he or she is more likely to injure it further.

While this injury can occur in any dog who overexerts itself, research indicates that certain breeds are more likely than others to develop it. Large breeds, like Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Akitas, Newfoundland Dogs, Mastiffs, and Labrador retrievers, are more likely to suffer from this injury.

Because CCL injuries do not heal on their own, surgical intervention is required to relieve your dog's pain and help them regain mobility. Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, and Tibial Tuberosity Advancement are all options. While each of these procedures is unique, they all aim to stabilize your pet's knee joint, reduce tibial thrust, and allow them to move without pain.

Luxated Patella

The patella, or kneecap, is normally located in a groove above your dog's knee between the femur and shin. The term luxating refers to something that is out of place or dislocated. When your dog has a luxating patella, their kneecap has dislocated, and you may notice them limping, skipping a step, or running on three legs.

This injury is relatively common in many smaller dog breeds, such as French Poodles, Bichon Frise, Chihuahuas, and Maltese, all of which have a genetic predisposition to dislocating their knees. This is frequently reflected in the location of the ligament that connects their patella to the rest of their leg, which causes it to wear down and eventually allow it to dislocate inwards.

Treatment may range from anti-inflammatory medication to surgical intervention, depending on the severity (also known as the Grade of the condition). Reconstruction of 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 correction of abnormally shaped bones to reduce deformities are all procedures used to treat a luxating patella.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Intervertebral disc disease, also commonly called IVDD, is a disease affecting your dog's spine that appears in three types.

Type 1 is caused by the rupture of a spinal disc anywhere in your dog's back, resulting in an inability to walk. Type 2 is a slower-acting bulging of the outer portion of your pup's spinal cord, compressing the spine and potentially causing a rupture, as Type 1 does. A type 3 tear is a sudden tear in the outer part of the spine caused by overexertion or physical trauma.

IVDD can be found in dogs of all sizes. Type 1 diabetes is most common in small dogs such as dachshunds, Shih Tzus, toy poodles, beagles, and basset hounds. However, it can also appear in medium and larger dogs. In middle-aged medium-to-large dogs, type 2 is extremely common. IVDD is a degenerative condition caused by body types such as short and curved legs. Any puppy with those characteristics is more likely than others to develop IVDD.

When it comes to treating IVDD, spinal surgery is required, though some very mild cases may be treatable with restricted movement and pain-management medications. Dogs suffering from IVDD may never be able to walk again and must rely on mobility aids to get around.


Many orthopedic problems in dogs result in arthritis (also known as a degenerative joint disease). Dogs with arthritis often favor their most badly affected leg and endure stiffness, aversion to exercise, muscle loss, and difficulties rising, climbing, and jumping. Symptoms typically emerge gradually and intensify over time.

A variety of treatments are available for dogs with arthritis, including prescription pain medications and anti-inflammatories, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, therapeutic laser, and regenerative therapies.

Arthritis can affect any dog, although it is more common in older canines and large breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Great Danes. It may also be more common in breeds with inherited arthritic issues.

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.

Do you think your dog may be suffering from or at risk of an orthopedic health problem? Contact Silver Springs Animal Clinic today for more information about the diagnosis.

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