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Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

If you have or have had a large or giant dog, you are already bald from hearing about hip dysplasia, a disease characterized by incongruity and degeneration of the pelvis joint with the femoral head. 

Controlling the increase in cases of the disease depends a lot on the selection of dogs used for mating, discarding all those with dysplasia grades D and E. However, as it is a disease of recessive polygenic inheritance, it is not possible to guarantee that the mating between dogs considered radiographically grade A, B and C will not be born grade D and E offspring.

This is the main factor that determines the predisposition or genetic tendency for the appearance of dysplasia. But it must be clarified that genetic predisposition may not be solely responsible for the onset of the disease. Currently, it is believed that other triggers of dysplasia may be environmental and management factors, especially during the animal's growth phase.

This could also be an explanation behind a couple of healthy dogs producing puppies with dysplasia. Or yet, the occurrence of some littermates becoming severely dysplastic while others are free from the disease.
Dysplasia has no cure and is conventionally treated with the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and joint protectors (chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine), and in certain cases, surgery. But you can do much more to prevent and control this disease. Check out in this guide some precautions that can:

* Delay the onset of hip dysplasia in predisposed animals;

* Increase the quality of life of the affected animal;

* Prevent the development of dysplasia in puppies and young animals.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a polygenic recessive disease. This means that several genes are responsible for predisposing the dog to present dysplasia. And it is virtually impossible to control all these genes. The "recessive" means that even dogs free of the disease can carry the genes that determine the appearance of dysplasia and can pass them on to their offspring. Hence the difficulty in eradicating dysplasia in the breeds affected by it.

In dogs and cats that do not have hip dysplasia, the head of the femur is well-shaped and fits snugly into the (also well-formed) acetabulum, which is a cavity in the coxal bone or "pelvis". With this proper fit, the animal walks, runs, jumps and lives normally. In pets with dysplasia, the femoral head and/or the acetabulum present deformities, which compromise the joint and, consequently, the mobility of the hind limbs.

In fact, the hip joint of the dysplastic pet was not born degenerated. She has a very normal appearance during the animal's childhood. So much so that it is not recommended to x-ray growing puppies – dysplasia will simply not be present. Symptoms and radiographic signs of hip degeneration do not usually appear before four months of age – and it can take up to twelve months of age for a pet (or more!) to manifest.

Dysplasia is classified according to the degree of joint involvement. In severe cases, the incongruity (disengagement) is so severe that a dislocation can occur, which is when the head of the femur comes completely out of the acetabulum (the cavity in the pelvis). In other cases the dysplasia is there, but the symptoms are absent or are so slight that the owner does not even suspect that the animal has the disease. In this case, strong muscles and ligaments are believed to be holding the joint in place.

Depending on the degree of joint incongruity, local tissue proliferation occurs with the presence of bone fragments inside and outside the joint. This leads to a very painful inflammatory process. The classic clinical signs of hip dysplasia are: limping of the hind legs, expressing pain or discomfort when walking, being reluctant to climb steps and to stand up. If left untreated, dysplasia can lead to a gradual loss of back mobility.



As not all dysplastic animals show symptoms, the only way to know if they have the disease is through radiographic examinations. Definitive diagnosis should be made at 24 months of age by means of radiographs performed in veterinary support centers. If your Golden presents possible symptoms of dysplasia before this age, consult your veterinarian to schedule prior radiological exams.

If your Golden has been diagnosed as being dysplastic (grades D or E in the report), do not allow him to be mated in order to prevent the spread of this disease. Dogs diagnosed with grade C at 24 months of age should only be mated with bitches with grades A (ideal) or B. Even so, it is recommended to avoid mating C dogs and only do so if the dog has racial qualities that justify the risk of mating him.

Other causes associated with the appearance of hip dysplasia

Some situations can contribute to the genetic predisposition to dysplasia being expressed, and can also complicate the picture of a dysplastic animal. Let's see what they are:

lack of vitamin C

Many veterinarians recommend daily vitamin C supplementation for puppies with a tendency to have dysplasia, as well as for already affected adults. It is known that vitamin C is a complicated food component to keep viable in food.

industrialized. The dog's body produces vitamin C, but the amount produced may not be enough to fight hereditary degenerations. Add 500mg of vitamin C (tablet, preferably with bioflavonoids) to the diet of puppies up to 6 months of age. From that age, you can offer 500mg twice a day (in two meals, separately) or 1,000mg in one of the meals.

Obesity / Hypercaloric diet

Excess weight is the enemy of the well-being and health of any animal (or person). But in the case of dysplastic individuals, obesity is even more problematic as more pressure is placed on weakened joints. The respected Treaty of Veterinary Medicine (Ettinger) even recommends weight reduction as the main measure for pets with oteoarticular problems.

Fact is, thin dysplastic pets usually have a much better prognosis. Keep your dog slender and both of you will be spared future obesity-related suffering.

Limiting access to food is another way to avoid excessive caloric intake. Studies show that leaving food unattended or feeding your pet every time he asks increases the incidence of osteoarticular diseases in susceptible puppies. Avoid this by setting meal times early.

excess calcium

Do not supplement your puppy's diet with synthetic calcium. This guidance is especially important for fast-growing puppies, such as large and giant breeds. Studies show that synthetic calcium interferes with the maturation and modeling of bones and cartilage during the growth phase. It has also been documented that excess calcium hinders the absorption of zinc and magnesium from the intestines. Industrialized diets completely dispense with the need to offer extra calcium. In fact, the body handles mild calcium deficiencies much better than excesses of this mineral.

Lack of direct sun exposure

It is worth remembering that daily exposure to the sun also helps to avoid imbalances. The sun's rays have ultraviolet radiation, which in contact with the blood vessels of the skin, activates vitamin D from food. Once activated, vitamin D helps the body retain calcium by absorbing this mineral in the intestines. That's why regular sunbathing is important for your puppy's bones to grow healthy.

But that nap in front of the window or closed glass door doesn't count. The animal has to be directly exposed to the sun's rays. Sun "filtered" by glass surfaces loses ultraviolet rays and is reduced to a source of heat. This orientation is particularly important for puppies that grow in an apartment, especially large ones.

Strenuous physical activities

Puppies and youngsters have vulnerable joints and bones and should not be encouraged to engage in strenuous physical activities such as agility or running, or to go up and down stairs. Playing is still the best exercise for growing animals. Adult dysplastic dogs can benefit from regular low-impact exercise such as swimming and light walking.

Staying on slippery floors

Do not allow dogs to run or even stay for a long time on slippery floors. The force required for the animal to balance itself puts too much pressure on the loose hip joint. If the nails are long and the hairs between the pads ("pads" of the paws) are long, even worse. Trim them to increase the grip of the paws to the floor. To make the nails of dogs very short, without drawing blood and without causing pain to the animal, you can use a device called Dremel. A conventional Dremel, found at regular hardware stores, will also file your nails. See this site - - (in English) to learn how to use it.

Use of some medications

It is proven that some drugs can harm the osteoarticular development of young puppies and pets. This is the case of Enrofloxacin (Baytril) an efficient antibiotic that is widely used in the routine of the general practitioner veterinarian.

Homeopathy and Acupuncture as aids in the treatment

Do not underestimate the effects of alternative therapies such as Homeopathy and Acupuncture. Both can do a lot for the dysplastic animal in terms of enhancing cartilage regeneration, strengthening adjacent muscles and reducing pain, inflammation and joint stiffness. And the best: they do not cause side effects or stress. It will certainly be worth looking for an indication of a good veterinarian specializing in Acupuncture and/or Homeopathy in your region.

  (veterinarian: Sylvia Angelico)

Elbow Dysplasia

Unfortunately, Elbow Dysplasia is very common in goldens and the control of this problem in Brazil is very weak. Except for a few breeders who really care about their dogs' health.

To get an idea of the dimension of the problem, OFFA, an American institution of veterinary orthopedics, maintains statistical data on the occurrence of the disease in 87 different breeds. The golden retriever is the 25th breed with the highest number of dogs affected by elbow dysplasia, with almost 12% of dysplastic dogs in this joint.

In the incidence of hip dysplasia, the golden occupies the 30th position with just over 20% of affected dogs. It is worth remembering that this statistic is American, so the vast majority of dogs computed originate from that country.
But here's the warning. It's no use for the dog to have the hip-femoral control if it doesn't have the elbow... As important as the control of the dysplasia of the hind limbs is the control of the dysplasia of the fore limbs.

Try to inform your dog's parents that they have such an exam and never forget to do X-rays on your dog to control elbow dysplasia too, especially if you are thinking of using it for breeding.

Do you know what elbow dysplasia is?

Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary disease and is summarized in four diseases that lead to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint.

All these problems are of genetic origin, but they can be aggravated by environmental influences such as: hypercaloric diets, obesity, smooth floor, excessive exercise, rapid growth, poor use of food supplements, among others.

The four diseases that induce a problem in the elbow are: disunity of the anconeal process, osteochondritis dissecans, fragmentation of the coronoid process and elbow incongruity.

The most worrying factor in elbow dysplasia is its high degree of heredity, which can vary from 25 to 45%. So it's a problem that if not seriously taken care of from the start of an intersection, it can snowball out of control. If we imagine that 10 puppies can generate 100 that can generate 1000, you can feel the size of the problem, right?

The official diagnosis of elbow dysplasia is only accepted after 2 years of age. But, it is possible to carry out previews from the 4 months of the animal's life to control the problem. Remembering that only the radiological examination can confirm or deny the presence of this evil.

Some animals carrying the disease may not show symptoms, others have difficulty walking, show abnormal gait, limp, prefer to lie down rather than move, others feel pain when extending and flexing the elbow.

Affected animals must not breed.

In many cases, the resolution is surgical, resorting to changes in the animal's diet and restrictive changes in their exercise processes.


Grade 0
  - Animal shows no signs of elbow dysplasia  (NORMAL)
Grade I
  - Minimal bone change in the anconeal process 
Grade II
  - Additional subchondral bone changes and/or osteophytes 
Grade III
  - Well-developed degenerative joint disease 

Golden Calli

Specializing in Golden Retrievers

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