Dog Ailments

Some dogs are naturally healthier than others thanks to their genetic make-ups, breeding history and also size. Here we explain some of the more common ailments found across the various breeds.

Hip / Elbow Dysplasia

This is a disease affecting the hip and elbow joints of dogs. It usually develops due to a looseness of the ligaments, connective tissues and muscles around the joint in question, leading to wear and tear of the bones causing intense discomfort. This condition normally leads to arthritis, a disease characterised by pain and swelling. Larger breeds tend to be more prone to this disease, where it normally occurs during the growing stages, and purebreds are more prone than crossbreeds. Also, if a parent dog has hip dysplasia there is a chance that any offspring will either be affected by or merely carry the disease. However, although it is commonly regarded as a genetic disease, it can occur in otherwise healthy dogs in certain circumstances, such as if the bones develop too widely apart or if any other factors cause a loosening of the joint. Obese dogs are more prone to developing the disease too. One of the symptoms tends to be limping. This painful disease is normally treated by surgery, although therapy treatment may also be required.

Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD)

Von Willebrand's disease is an inherited bleeding disorder in dogs similar to hemophilia, and is caused by the lack of a specific blood clotting factor. Dogs with VWD will bleed excessively upon injury because the blood simply does not clot in the normal time. They may also be prone to nosebleeds and bleeding gums, and more seriously, bleeding may occur in the stomach and intestine, which may show in the faeces and also urine, and between joints, which can cause symptoms similar to those of arthritis. It is normally carried by females but mostly affects males, and occurs in many breeds and mixed breeds, with the German shepherd being the most commonly affected. There is currently no cure for VWD but mildly affected dogs may never require treatment, or only after surgery or injury.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This is an inherited disease of the retinas that eventually leads to blindness in both eyes. It is non-painful and occurs in most dog breeds, and can occur in mixed breeds also. One of the first indications of PRA are dilated pupils, and owners often notice a glow and increased shine in their dog's eyes. By this stage the dog is usually night blind, (poor sight in low light), and will eventually become blind and develop cataracts as a by-product of the deterioration process. Despite this distressing condition, most dogs will adjust to their vision loss as long as owners do.

Luxating Patella

This is a condition of the knee joint caused either by malformation or trauma, in which the groove of the patella is too shallow and so the patella will luxate or pop out of this groove. This is painful and usually causes the leg to lock up temporarily, where the dog will hold the foot off the ground until the quadricep muscle relaxes and lengthens and allows the patella to return to the correct position. The condition can be genetic and small dogs such as Miniature and Toy Poodles are particularly prone. If left uncorrected the groove can become even shallower as the side ridges wear down, leading to lameness and arthritis. Treatment normally includes surgery.

Ectropion

This is a condition where the lower eyelid turns outwards. It often has no syptoms other than tearing and conjunctivitis. It is a genetic condition but can also result from trauma or nerve damage. Treatment normally invlolves surgery.

Entropion

In this condition the lower eyelid folds inwards. It can be very uncomfortable because the eyelashes tend to rub against the cornea. Entropion is a genetic condition that is normally evident by 6 months of age and required surgical treatment.

Legg-Perthes

This is a disorder where the hip joint degenerates in young dogs, and is common to small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers and West Highland White Terriers. It normally begins around three months of age and the end result is a malformed hip joint, a degree of lameness and secondary arthritis. Treatment involves surgery to remove the diseased bone, slowing the destructive arthritic process. The secondary arthritis can then be managed similarly to other forms of arthritis.

Bloat

Bloat is a serious and life threatening condition where the stomach becomes overstretched due to excessive gas content that cannot escape. It can be caused by a multitude of factors such as stress, overfeeding, eating foods that expand in the stomach, drinking too much water too quickly, and any of these before or after exercise. The air-filled stomach puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm, which makes breathing difficult, and also compresses large veins in the abdomen, preventing blood from returning to the heart. Deep-chested breeds are particularly at risk and increased age can play a part. Dogs with bloat can die within several hours and so a vet must be contacted immediately.

Gastric Torsion

This is a secondary condition of bloat. An air-filled stomach can easily rotate, which pinches off the blood supply to it. Also known as volvulus, without a blood supply the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted. The dog's condition will then begin to deteriorate very rapidly.

Wobbler Syndrome

Also called Caudal Cervical Spondylomyelopathy, this condition is a compression of the spinal cord caused by a narrowing of the vertabral canal, or by a ruptured disc in the neck. This causes the vertabral ligaments to become loosened and overstretched to the point of an inability to tauten when strength is needed. Syptoms include the head being carried low or wobbling, and although the cause is unknown it may be down to genetics, overstimulation or perhaps even a nutritional imbalance. Some of the breeds most at risk include in Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Borzoi, and Basset Hounds. Treatment can include surgery and anti-inflammatories.

Rabies

It doesn't seem right in a section on dog ailments not to mention rabies. Rabies is a preventable viral disease that can affect mammals, and is mostly transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Domestic animals account for a low percentage of the reported cases of rabies, with cats, cattle and dogs most often reported. Providing vaccinations are kept up to date and pets are supervised when off the lead, then you and your domesticated pooch should be okay!