It’s no secret that dogs are very prone to developing hip and joint problems. Some of these problems are genetic like hip dysplasia and some of them just come with aging. However, there are certain breeds and types of dogs that are more prone to developing hip and joint problems. This article will focus specifically on small dog joint problems. Often times dogs that were bred for certain qualities, like short legs, face more problems than other breeds.
Here are 4 common small dog joint problems:
The patella is a little bone located in the tendon of the quad muscles of your pup. It normally rests in a groove with the femur in the knee, and is also known as the knee cap. Patellar Luxation is a condition where the knee cap basically dislocates and pops outside of its little groove when the knee is flexed, which can be incredibly painful. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) patellar luxation is primarily a small dog joint problem, “especially [in] breeds such as Boston and Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and miniature poodles” (ACVS).
Patellar location can occasionally be caused by a traumatic injury, but it’s believed to be caused by multiple factors that may include the break-down of cartilage and soft tissues around the joints. Unfortunately, surgery is one of the only fixes for most cases but according to the ACVS, recurrence of knee cap instability is uncommon after surgery.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (or disease):
The Cranial Cruciate Ligament is essentially what is known as the ACL in humans. The University of Florida Small Animal Hospital says that its 3 main functions are to prevent the tibia from displacement, prevent hyperextensions of the knee, and prevent internal rotation of the tibia (click here to read the full article) . So it’s pretty important and having it rupture is definitely a big deal!
Unlike in humans, the CCL rarely ruptures because of a traumatic injury, but more commonly as a result of deterioration/degeneration of the ligaments and tissues over time. This type of small dog joint problem will leave your pup in serious pain and the inability to bare weight on the injured leg. If your dog is having trouble getting around, limping, you hear an audible clicking/popping sound, or see swelling in the knee, your dog may have a ruptured CCL. Get them to a vet!
Avascular Necrosis can be found in humans but is also a small dog joint problem. It is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply and can lead to tiny breaks in the bone and eventual bone collapse. In dogs, this most commonly occurs with the head of the femur. It can lead to chronic pain and arthritis of the hip.
According to Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), dogs being affected by avascular necrosis often times hold the effected hind leg off of the ground because it is intensely painful to put any weight on it. Dogs with avascular necrosis will start showing symptoms as puppies and it is thought the cause is a recessive gene so some dogs may be carriers of the gene but not exhibit symptoms.
Elbow incongruity, sometimes called elbow dysplasia (ED), refers to bad alignment of the joint surfaces of the elbow. According to WSAVA, it is “the most common cause of forelimb lameness in dogs.” It is typically more common with large dogs, but is also a small dog joint problem. Dogs with ED typically start showing signs around 5 months old, which may include, “lameness elbow swelling, decreased range of motion and joint pain.” (click here to read the full article)
Dogs with more mild cases can sometimes be treated successfully with medical management including anti-inflammatory medication, hydrotherapy, or even weight loss. There are surgical options for more severe cases and early treatment can resolve lameness and sometimes decrease osteoarthritis formation.
Treatment and Prevention of Small Dog Joint Problems
Unfortunately, many of these small dog joint problems are genetic or start from a very young age. It is extremely important to see a vet if your dog is exhibiting symptoms of any of these issues. Surgery is the only option to really fix many of these, but there are some things that you can do to promote general joint health overall.
One thing that many of the sources we mentioned discussed was managing your dog’s weight. Dog obesity is actually incredibly wide spread and the extra weight will put extra strain on your dogs hips and joints regardless of what issue they may be dealing with. So make sure your pup is getting a good healthy diet and is not overweight.
Another thing you can do to promote general joint health and support is including a glucosamine supplement, click here to read why glucosamine is important for you pup! Glucosamine is not a cure, it does help support new cartilage and tissue growth in the joints and helps them to stay lubricated and cushioned though. Check out our Small Dog Glucosamine Joint Formula here.
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