Orthopaedic disorders in dogs are very common and cover a wide range of different conditions.
From Osteoarthritis and Spondylosis, to Elbow and Hip dysplasia, Orthopaedic disorders affect both young and old, and most dogs will develop one or another within their lifetime.
Clinical Canine Massage is a results-driven, remedial therapy which helps to support these Orthopaedic conditions, and commonly keeps dogs moving for longer, manages their pain, and improves their quality of life. If you’d like to find out more, or discuss your own dog, please do get in touch.
Dogs can suffer from a range of different Orthopaedic disorders, the most common of which include Osteoarthritis, Spondylosis, Elbow and Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patella, Cruciate Ligament Rupture, and Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD).
Unlike a lot of muscular and soft tissue issues which tend to be acute and can be rehabilitated with time, Orthopaedic conditions are often ongoing, chronic disorders that require careful management and support. Conservative measures include adaptations to activities of daily living, complementary therapies, and pain management, but sometimes surgical intervention will also be required.
If your dog has been diagnosed with one of these Orthopaedic conditions, or you’d just like to know what signs and symptoms to look out for, take a look below where you’ll find a brief description of each disorder along with how Clinical Canine Massage can help in each case.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Benefits of Clinical Canine Massage
Spondylosis, also called Ankylosing Spondylitis, is an ageing disease of the intervertebral discs, characterised by the development of bony spurs which on x-rays show as bridge formations on the underside of the vertebrae, with the most commonly affected areas being within the lower thoracic and lumbar vertebrae (T9-T10 and L2-L4). If the Spondylosis continues to other vertebrae, there may be several of these bridges resulting in the vertebrae becoming less flexible and fusing together. It is commonly thought of as Arthritis of the spine, however unlike Arthritis, Spondylosis is a non-inflammatory condition. Spondylosis begins with the breakdown of the outer portion of the intervertebral discs such that the inner disc material then protrudes, stretching the ligament and in turn encouraging the growth of bony spurs from the vertebral bodies. As a result, pressure is commonly applied to exiting spinal nerve roots which has neurological impacts such as referred pain. Older, large-breed dogs are at highest risk for developing spondylosis and treatment generally involves pain and lifestyle management.
Spondylosis is most commonly associated with ageing but can also develop as a result of repeated microtrauma; major trauma to the back, such as the impact of another dog running into them; the repeated pressure on the same joints or bones as through certain exercises or other activities; and as a secondary issue following intervertebral disc disease or spinal surgery. It may also be more prevalent in dogs who have had abdominal surgery or have excessive scarring following a spay, as the resulting weakening of the abdominal wall puts excessive pressure on the spine as it struggles to stabilise these core muscles. Similarly, dogs with excessive muscular strains (tears) to the muscles that run alongside and stabilise the spine may also develop spondylosis as the vertebrae have to work harder to stabilise themselves.
As part of my previous work as a Veterinary Thermographer, I imaged a 10 year old ex-racing Greyhound with clinically undiagnosed extensive back pain. As shown by the two images below, Thermal Imaging identified three problems; firstly, significant localised heat was found overlying spasmic muscle groups, as denoted by the large red area along her back; secondly, highly defined cool spots were observed directly overlying several thoracic vertebrae, which indicated chronic Arthritic type changes; thirdly, the thermal images of her legs showed unusual colour bands called dermatomes which indicated that one or more of the exiting spinal nerve roots was being compressed. A subsequent CT scan diagnosed Spondylosis.
Given that the term dysplasia means abnormality of development, Elbow Dysplasia therefore refers to abnormal development of the elbow joint and is the most common cause of forelimb lameness in young large and giant breed dogs. The elbow is a complex joint involving the articulation of three bones; the humerus, radius and ulna. If these three bones do not fit together absolutely perfectly as a result of abnormal development, the consequence is abnormal concentration of forces on a specific part of the joint. And as the joint is subsequently unable to articulate normally, problems in the cartilage and the bones arise. Treatment varies depending on the distinct abnormalities present, with conservative measures including the likes of a low-impact exercise programme, weight management, and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, whilst surgical intervention often involves the removal of fragmented processes or cartilage flaps if severe.
Elbow Dysplasia is primarily of genetic cause, although environmental factors may influence whether a dog with the genetic coding for Elbow Dysplasia will actually develop a clinical problem. Such environmental factors include over exercise and excessive stair use whilst young, injury to the joint, commencing jumping too early at agility, and poor nutrition and weight management as a puppy.
Hip Dysplasia is the abnormal developmental of the hip joint. It’s due to a poor coxofemoral joint conformation and is a fairly common problem for all breeds but especially large, fast growing breeds. In basic terms, the ball and socket components of the hip joint do not fit together as snugly as they are supposed to. As a result, the joint becomes unstable, the capsule and teres ligament become stretched, and the articular cartilage becomes eroded. In an attempt to re-establish joint stability, new bone is laid down, which often produces secondary Osteoarthritis when coupled with the cartilage degeneration. Furthermore, the joints can become inflamed if the head of the femur is misshapen, as abnormal wear and tear will occur. Non-surgical treatment options include physical therapies alongside weight management and medication to support cartilage and reduce inflammation, whilst surgical options include Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO), Triple Osteotomy, and Total Hip Replacement (THR).
Hip Dysplasia is considered to be a multifactorial disease with genetic predisposition, nutrition, trauma, and exercise all influencing the outcome. Essentially, as with Elbow Dysplasia, the inherited component is caused by the presence of certain genetic coding, however the expression of these genes may be modified by environmental factors, all of which will influence how unstable the hip joint becomes and how much secondary Osteoarthritis develops.
Stability in the stifle joint is maintained via four ligaments which cross over each other, providing support, flexibility and movement. The Cranial Cruciate Ligament is a band of tough fibrous tissue that attaches the femur to the tibia, preventing the tibia from shifting forward relative to the femur and preventing the stifle from over-extending or rotating. The cruciate ligaments are susceptible to sprains (tearing or rupture) when overstretched. Sprains vary in severity from a minor tear or stretch, through to a complete rupture, sometimes taking small pieces of bone with it. The more severe, the more painful and debilitating the injury, and often surgical intervention will be required. The most common pathology within the stifle joint is rupture of the Cranial Cruciate Ligament, making the leg weak, lame and unstable. Treatment generally depends upon the severity of the pathology as well as body size and exercise expectations.
In a lot of cases, the cruciate ligament is ruptured as a result of long-term degeneration of the ligament fibres, most likely due to a genetic predisposition, with certain breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Boxers, West Highland White Terriers and Newfoundlands being more prone to the condition than others. However, accidental injury also accounts for some incidences of cruciate damage, such as sudden twisting of the knee, use of ball launchers which causes excessive twist or torque to the joint as the dog brakes to retrieve the ball, living on slippy flooring, and stepping down a hole for instance. Additionally, poor weight management, structural abnormality, poor muscle tone, and a history of previous injury or tearing also increases the risk of developing cruciate ligament pathology.
The patella (knee cap) is situated just above the stifle joint and in some dogs, rather than sliding up and down in its stabilising groove on the front of the femur, it will luxate (dislocate) outside of this normal depression. In most cases, when the patella luxates from the groove, it can only be returned to its normal position once the quadriceps muscles relax and the stifle joint is extended (straightened), and it is for this reason that most dogs with the condition will hold up their hind leg for a few minutes before returning to normal activity. The characteristic hop-hop-skip action often seen with this condition is the dog trying to “pop” the patella back into its groove. However, there are four grades of Luxating Patella; Patella luxates and returns to the normal position; Patella luxates when stifle is flexed and remains in this position until the stifle is extended (straightened); Patella is luxated for a majority of the time, can be manually replaced but will luxate again in a short period of time; Permanent luxation where it stays misaligned and will not sit in its groove even for short periods. Luxating Patella can occur in any dog but is most commonly seen in toy and miniature breeds. Surgical intervention is the preferred treatment of choice for severe cases however it cannot offer guaranteed results.
Luxating Patella has a number of causes including past trauma to the stifle, persistent standing on the hindlimbs, genetic predisposition, poor breeding, and malformation of the patella and groove during the growth phase. In the latter three cases, the clinical signs of the condition will normally start to show approximately four months after birth.
Symptoms of Luxating Patella
OCD is caused by the interaction of a number of factors including a genetic predisposition, with the condition most commonly affecting large breed puppies between the age of four and eight months due to their rapid bone development; nutritional deficiency or over-supplementation, particularly with calcium; excessive exercise as a puppy; trauma; harmful activites of daily living such as ball launchers or living on slippy flooring; and hormonal imbalance.
If you’re dog has been diagnosed with any of the above Orthopaedic conditions or you’ve been noticing some of the signs and symptoms above, just pop us a message, as Clinical Canine Massage would likely be a great next step. If your dog has yet to be diagnosed with an Orthopaedic disorder, we’d advise you visit your vet for a consultation and clinical assessment initially.
And whats more, the Canine Massage Guild have devised a fantastic consultation aid called The Five Principles of Pain, which you can take with you to your consultation to help you and your vet to assess your dog for the viability of Clinical Canine Massage therapy. It’s likely that if your dog does have an underlying Orthopaedic condition, they will be presenting with a number of clinical and sub-clinical signs of muscular and myofascial pain that are frequently helped by Canine Massage as a result. Click here to download the Five Principles of Pain sheet.
As a member of the Canine Massage Guild, Paw Vida offer a very professional Clinical Canine Massage service and respect the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and Exemption Order 2015 by never working on an animal without gaining prior veterinary approval. In simple terms, this means we’ll only massage your dog if your vet considers it appropriate and safe to do so. Some diseases and conditions are contraindicative to massage and we, or your vet, will of course advise you of this when you get in touch.
You can download our Veterinary Consent form here. Please note that without veterinary consent, we’ll be unable to massage your dog.
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