Although dogs and cats walk on four legs, their anatomy is very similar to people. The musculoskeletal system allows your pet to move around in their environment. Abnormalities of this system are often associated with injury.
- Cranial cruciate ligament rupture and fractures represent the majority of musculoskeletal problems.
- Congenital defects commonly affect bone and/or cartilage development, such as elbow and hip dysplasias and patella luxation.
- Infectious diseases of the skeletal system include tick borne diseases such as: Borreliosis (Lyme’s disease), other Rickettsial infections, and systemic fungal infections (e.g.: Blastomycosis).
- Osteoarthritis develops in unstable joints over time.
- Metabolic and nutritional disorders, such as kidney failure, can weaken bones.
- Cancers commonly affecting the bone include: osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and metastatic disease (spread of cancer).
Musculoskeletal abnormalities are more common in dogs than cats. Surgical intervention may be needed in some cases of musculoskeletal disease. Recovery from musculoskeletal disease or injury often requires a combination of pain management, exercise restriction, rehabilitatitive care, weight management, and nutritional supplements.
Dogs bear 60% of their body weight in their front limbs, thus elbow health is essential. For normal elbow function, all of the bones (humerus, radius, and ulna) of the joint must align. Abnormal elbow joint development, termed dysplasia, is a common cause of lameness in young, large breed dogs. The incongruent joint disrupts the normal gliding that occurs with joint movement. Over time, this disruption causes arthritis to settle in to the joint. Dogs with elbow pain may exhibit signs as subtle as hesitation to use stairs or they may have more obvious signs such as not bearing weight on the limb. A healthy body weight is the best insurance to minimize joint inflammation in your pet’s later years. Anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, physical therapy, and/or surgery may be recommended by your veterinarian to keep your dog’s elbow joints strong and mobile.
The femur bone spans the distance between the hip and stifle (knee) joints. Large muscle groups attach to the femur to allow flexion and extension of the rear limb. The top of the femur forms the ball in the ball and socket hip joint, while the bottom of the femur articulates with the tibia in the knee joint. Problems associated with the femur occur from developmental abnormalities (e.g.: hip dysplasia), fractures, dislocation of the femur from the hip joint, bone infections (e.g.: Blastomycosis), and tumors (e.g.: osteosarcoma). Pets with mild femur pain may favor the affected leg, be slow to rise, and become exercise intolerant. Significant femur pain (e.g.: traumatic or pathologic fracture) appears as swelling and non-weight bearing lameness on the affected limb.
The pelvis is composed of 4 bones (ilium, ischium, pubis, and sacrum) that form a box to connect the spine to both of the hind limbs at the hip joints. The pelvic box surrounds and protects portions of the intestinal, urinary, and reproductive tracts. Common ailments of the pelvis include malformed joints (termed, dysplasia) and fractures from trauma. Dysplastic hips cause arthritis over time if not corrected. Due to the box-like nature of the pelvis, fractures tend to be multiple and concomitant injury to the internal organs may occur. Dogs with hip pain rise more slowly or limp; their endurance may wane. A healthy body weight is the best insurance to minimize joint inflammation in your pet’s later years. Anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, physical therapy, and/or surgery may be recommended by your veterinarian to keep your dog’s hip joints strong and mobile so s/he can keep chasing balls at the park.
Your dog loves to run and play…healthy joints help ensure that these fun activities can continue throughout your pet’s life. The stifle joint, also known as the knee, is a common site of injury in dogs. Stifle injuries, such as cranial cruciate ligament tears, often occur after play activity. Abnormal joint development, such as medial patella luxation, causes joint instability and leads to joint inflammation. Dogs with stifle pain may hold up the affected leg or partially bear weight on it. A healthy body weight is the best insurance to minimize joint inflammation in your pet’s later years. Anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, physical therapy, and/or surgery may be recommended to keep the stifle joints strong and mobile so your dog can keep chasing squirrels into the golden years.
Dogs bear 60% of their body weight in their front limbs; thus, shoulder health is essential. For normal function, all of the bones (humerus and scapula) of the shoulder joint must align properly. The shoulder connects the front limbs to the trunk and provides support for the front half of the body. Disruption of the normal gliding of the shoulder joint results in pain. Developmental abnormalities, such as osteochondritis dissecans, cause inflammation due to abnormal joint formation. Without intervention, arthritis progresses in the joint. Shoulder pain may not be obvious in stoic dogs; other dogs may limp on the affected leg. A healthy body weight is the best insurance to minimize joint inflammation in your dog’s shoulders. Anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, physical therapy and/or surgery may be recommended by your veterinarian to keep your dog’s shoulder joints strong and mobile.
The skull, containing numerous fused bones, gives shape to your dog’s head, facilitates jaw movement, and envelops the fragile brain to offer protection from trauma. Skull injuries commonly occur from head trauma resulting in fractures, brain injury, and bleeding.
As the skull protects the brain, the bony spine protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord passes through multiple vertebrae to provide a neurologic highway that connects the brain to the rest of the body. Muscles intimately attach to the spine and allow movement and activity. Disorders of the spinal column may involve the bony structures of the spinal column (e.g.: arthritis), the muscles that attach to it (e.g.: trauma), or the nerves that pass through (e.g.: intervertebral disc disease or a “slipped disc”). Symptoms of spinal injury include: pain along the spine, weakness, inability to walk or stand, and restlessness. Spinal injury requires immediate veterinary attention.
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