Orthopedic Problems

Problems with your poodle's bones can be tragic because they cause pain to your beloved dog. Poodles of all sizes are susceptible to hip dysplasia, while Miniatures and Toys are also susceptible to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and patellar luxation.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs when the femoral head (the ball part of the joint) doesn't fit properly in the hip socket. This causes looseness in the hip joints, which leads to damaged cartilage in the joint and painful arthritis.

Signs of hip dysplasia include decreased activity, stiffness, lameness, bunny-hopping (running with both hind legs moving at the same time), a swaggering gait, muscle wasting in the thighs, unwillingness to jump or stand on the hind legs, and soreness after lying down.

Treatment often includes surgery, though a nonsurgical approach involving anti-inflammatory medication or supplementation, moderate exercise, and weight loss is often tried first. Early detection is important if surgery is to be avoided. It's also important to keep your dog's weight to a healthy low level to help alleviate pressure on the hips.

Since hip dysplasia is hereditary, all breeding dogs should have their hips x-rayed, and those with poor hip ratings should not be bred.

Fact

Diet and supplementation are important considerations in preventing hip dysplasia. Puppies that are kept lean in their first year have a reduced risk of developing hip dysplasia later. A supplement called Glycoflex that comes from the Perna mussel can be helpful, as can glucosamine and chondroitin.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (also known as LCP, Legg-Perthes, or avascular necrosis) is a painful hip disease in which the cap of the femur bone in the hip joint suffers a loss of blood supply. This leads to deterioration of the femoral head, with the result that eventually, it no longer fits properly in the socket. As this is painful, the dog becomes lame on that leg.

Dogs usually start showing early symptoms of LCP — limping, favoring one leg, or walking with a strange gait — when they're under a year old, though sometimes symptoms show as early as four months.

If your dog is diagnosed with LCP (which is done by x-ray), your veterinarian might want you to put him on anti-inflammatory drugs for a month to see if that improves the condition. If it doesn't, or if the condition is advanced by the time of diagnosis, surgery will probably be recommended. During surgery, the femoral head and neck are removed, eliminating the painful rubbing-together of bones. The body can then create a new false joint out of muscle and tissue, allowing your dog a full recovery.

While the mode of inheritance is unknown, LCP is suspected to be hereditary. Hip x-rays to rule out hip dysplasia and LCP are among the health screens that breeders should do before breeding a dog.

Luxating Patella

With a luxating patella, the kneecap (or patella, located at the joint of the hind leg) pops out of place. It can occur in one or both knees and can show up in Toy or Miniature Poodle puppies as young as eight weeks, though the problem can also occur later in life.

A poodle with luxating patellas will stand funny, like he's bow-legged. He might cry out — because of the pain of his kneecap having popped out — and straighten his leg in an effort to put it back in place, or he might hold it up for the same reason. He might walk with a hitch in his gait.

A veterinarian can feel a luxating patella on examination, but x-rays are required to determine the development of the condition. Depending on the severity of the luxation and the age of the dog, surgery may be required. The earlier it's caught, the better the prognosis.

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