Orthopedic Conditions In Dogs

This is Susie, a beautiful black Labrador Retriever.  Like most labs, Susie has energy to burn.  She races from room to room, looking for new toys or other objects to chew.  Her shiny black coat, great confirmation and personality make her a hit with everyone she meets.  After all, who could resist her sweet face.

Unfortunately, labs are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and several other orthopedic conditions.  What can Susie’s owner do now to prevent or lesson these conditions?  Note; although focused on labs in this example, this applies to all dog breeds.

Diagnosis:  Restrict her caloric intake.  No fat puppies!

Scientific studies demonstrate that overweight puppies, labs included, are more prone to developing orthopedic problems.  In a study lead by Dr. Kealy, a group of lab puppies who were genetically prone to hip dysplasia were divided into two groups.  The first group was free-fed as much food as they wanted each day.  The second group was given 25% less food per day than the first group.  At two years of age, the first group suffered from osteoarthritis of the hip joints with more severity than the second group.  Dr. Kealy continued to follow these dogs through time.  The first group suffered from greater osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow at 5 and 8 years of life than did their counterparts.

To help prevent arthritis it is important to keep your dog, especially puppies, in good weight.  Although pudgy pups are cute, it is not good for their long-term health.  Keep your dogs in shape like the beautiful lab pictured above.  This gives them the best chance of a long, pain-free life.


Kealy, RD et al, Five year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs. JAVMA 1997, 210(2) : 222-5.

Kealy, RD et al, Evalluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs, JAMVA 2000, 217(11): 1678-1680.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.