Possible Orthopedic Problems in Bullmastiffs



Sudden forelimb lameness in juvenile dogs of the larger breeds, including Golden Retrievesrs , may be a manifestation of Osteochondritis Dissecans, which is usually found in shoulder joints, but can also affect the elbow, hocks and stifles. The disease is most often seen between the ages of 5-12 months, a time at which the skeletal system is most susceptible to injury.

The symptom of lameness (especially after strenuous exercise) is a common finding as is a refusal to use the affected limb, and painful resistance to full extension of the forelimb.

X-ray diagnosis is helpful in severe or long standing cases. Fortunately, most dogs afflicted will make a functional recovery with rest and restricted exercise, and some veterinarians have used injections of steroids to shorten the recovery period. More persistent cases of the disease may require surgical to remove the bony lesion or pieces of detached cartilage ("joint mice") within the joint capsule. Recuperation following surgery usually requires rest for 6-8 weeks with restricted leash walks only.

Although Osteochondritis Dissecans appears to be more prevalent in some breeds and in some lines than others, it is thought that this condition can help be prevented by exercising judgment in the amount of exercise a juvenile is allowed during this critical period of his development, as well as not allowing a puppy to become overweight.



Elbow Dysplaysia is a developmental abnormality in the elbow joint that that can affect large breed dogs, including Golden Retrievers. The disease has been diagnosed in dogs ranging in age from three and a half months to three years with six months the most frequently reported age of diagnosis.

Elbow Dysplaysia is caused by a failure of the bones involving the elbows of one or both forelegs to unite and move properly, or by bone fragments within the joint.

Fragments of bones or cartilage in the elbow joint are abrasive, causing severe irritation which results in pain and impairment of the dog's movement. Signs of the disease vary from slight lameness to refusal to bear weight on the affected limb. The elbow will be thrown out of place as the dog walks or runs and the dog will hold its elbow away from the chest. Severely affected dogs stand with bowed elbow and have swollen joint with increased joint fluid. The lameness generally is gradual in appearance, intermittent in nature, and may become more pronounced after exercise. Affected dogs resent forced movement of the elbow joint, and another frequent complaint is lack of drive in gaiting and loss of stamina.

Diagnosis of the condition is by x-ray. Surgical removal of the bone fragments will relieve the pain and discomfort, but since the process is degenerative, it may not be halted. . All aspects of this condition will produce generative joint disease over a period of time. Permanent or recurring lameness in the front legs may be the result.

Elbow Dysplaysia is thought to be inherited, and thus prevention is the most important way to deal with the disease. Concerned breeders try to eliminate the disease from their line dogs by maintaining accurate records and by not mating dysplastic dogs. In 1990, the OFA established a registry for dogs free of elbow dysplaysia, in addition to their registration of dogs free of hip dysplaysia.



Panosteitis is a disease of unknown origin which causes pain and lameness primarily in young growing dogs of the large breeds. The disease has also been termed Enostosis and Eosinophilic Panosteitis. Affected dogs are usually in the 5 to 14 month age range. Male dogs are more commonly affected than female dogs, and there is tendency for the disease to run in families.

Typical signs of the disease are a sudden lameness that occurs without a history of trauma, injury or excessive excercise. The lameness which may affect one or more legs and shift from limb to limb intermittently over a period of several weeks. In most cases one or the other front leg is affected first and then the problem tends to move around, making it appear that the lameness is shifting from leg to leg. There are often periods of improvement and worsening of the symptoms in a cyclic manner. This makes evaluation of treatment difficult since many dogs will spontaneously recover with or without treatment and then relapse. Diminished appetite and activity are also common findings.

As for diagnosis, pain is usually present if pressure is applied over the long bones, and in the middle phase of the disease, diagnosis of panosteitis can be made with x-rays. In fact x-rays are the most reliable means of differentiating lameness caused by panosteitis from other juvenile lameness such as Hip Dysplasia, Elbow, Dysplaysia or Osteochrontitis Dissecans. With Pano, X-rays usually reveal that the bones have greater density than is normally found.

In most cases, the worst pain lasts between one and two months but may persist in a cyclic nature for up to a year. Pano is self limiting, meaning that it will eventually go away, with or without treatment, but analgesic medications like aspirin can be helpful. In severe cases, corticosteroids may provide relief. Pain control can go a long way towards helping your pet feel more comfortable and should be used.

Additional information with diagrams can be found at: http://petsurgery.com/growingpains.htm

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Last Updated Sunday, April 01, 2001