Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Is There a Wiggle in the Walk?" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Is There a Wiggle in the Walk?

When you watch your dog walk away from you, do you detect a rolling motion or exaggerated side-to-side motion in the hip area? Do your dog's hind legs move in an arc and then the foot is placed down right about under the belly? How about when he runs -- do both hind legs seem to work as a matched pair and not make two separate movements?

If so, you could be seeing some of the signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia -- CHD. CHD is a genetic disease wherein loose ligaments that control the head of the femur (thigh bone) allow the head to begin to work free and cause improper formation of the head of the femur and socket into which it should fit.

And just what does all this mean? It means pain. Lots and lots of pain to the dog with CHD. It is a progressive disease so it just gets worse and more painful. There are varying degrees of the disease -- how loose the hips, how much movement, how badly formed the head of the femur and the socket into which it is to fit. And, dogs are individual in how they respond to the pain.

In spite of the signs of the disease that I mentioned above, there is only one possible way to determine if a dog has dysplasia -- x-rays of the hips. There is no one -- NO ONE -- who can look at a dog and say -- "That dog doesn't have dysplasia!" It just cannot be done. What can be done is to observe some movements classically associated with the disease and suggest a probability that it exists -- never suggest that it does not exist.

While I have seen dogs as young as four months clearly displaying signs of pain and the classical movements associated with CHD, what is more common is that dogs and bitches get older, are bred, have a litter or litter of pups to their credit (?), and the deterioration of the hips becomes evident because of the pain. Remember -- this is a congenital disease. So now we have more dogs that will probably have to endure the same suffering. So what's a person to do? Well -- as a potential buyer of a puppy, demand to see proof that both parents of that pup have been proved free of the disease. Really reputable breeders check back several generations and properly do not breed a dog or bitch if the disease appeared in any brothers or sisters!

If you own a dog/bitch and have intentions of breeding, investigate that animal's parents (if you do not already know,) the littermates and then have radiographs taken of the hips. While the disease may well be evident in a very young pup it may not show up until maturity, so radiographs are not considered valid proof that CHD does not exist if the dog is younger than two years at the time the radiographs are taken.

But, let's say you already have a dog with the symptoms I mentioned -- or a dog that "just" lets out an unexplained cry of pain as it moves up stairs, off the chair, or after hard exercise. What can you do? Get those radiographs taken! Then, you can deal with managing the problem. There is ample proof to justify giving mega-doses of calcium ascorbate acid -- not just ascorbic acid, which can irritate the stomach. (Vitamin C should be given with Vitamin E.) There are anti-inflammatories that provide relief from the pain, and there are supplements that help keep the lubricating agents working well in the joints. The latter comes in many forms of glucosamine with chondroitin that can be given orally on a daily basis, or in the form of a monthly injectable that resources I have seen suggest is superior.

And, if you have a pup from one of the more predisposed breeds of dogs for CHD, it is necessary to NEVER supplement with calcium. Stop feeding puppy formulas much earlier than the food companies say (too many calories and too much fat encourages too much rapid growth exacerbating the problem if it exists,) give Vitamin C and Vitamin E daily, carefully monitor exercise so that the pup never gets too tired, and prevent all efforts to jump up on and off things or, for example, into or out of the pick-up truck. There are surgeries available including complete hip replacement -- talk with your vet about that.

While information to date suggests that you cannot cause CHD by overfeeding or over exercising, nothing good is to be gained by such practice and, if the youngster does have it, you are sure to cause clinical signs of the disease much earlier than would otherwise happen.

What breeds are most susceptible? Bulldogs seem to be unquestioned in their claim to first place with German Shepherd Dogs probably in second place, but most other large breeds have problems with CHD - Dobermans, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Mastiffs, but it is not limited to them. I have a client whose small purebred dog suffers from canine hip dysplasia, as well as clients with non-purebred small dogs with the disease. So -- forget escaping by getting a "street dog!"

Never buy from pet shops, only buy from breeders who screen their breed stock, and then manage your pup well. It is so sad to love a puppy and then begin to see the signs of pain, whether early on in life or in the prime of adulthood.

Addendum from Charlotte, 11/3/2002: This one gives me cause for concern since I have been learning so much about the negative effects of commercial dog food, and a correlation with CHD. However, those believing the theories are still few in number, so best I can think of is to make a footnote suggesting reading Ian Billinghurst's book fro ideas about diet and skeletal issues.

Also, it seems that the dog that really does take first place in the CHD battle is actually the English Bulldog! Probably German Shepherds follow a close second, but it is probably best to simply list breeds most likely to suffer from the disease after indicating that Bulldogs have the questionable glory of being first.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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