Saint Bernard dogs are powerful, proportionately tall, strong and muscular, big boned and deep chested, and for these reasons you would think that hip dysplasia in these dogs would be something extremely rare. The truth is, it’s the other way around: Joint problems are very common for dogs of this breed.
Hip Dysplasia in Saint Bernards – What Is It?
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition, which can affect any dog. Although the causes may vary, the effects are always the same: loss of mobility, increasing pain, impaired gait, and even behavioral and mood changes in your dog (including snappishness and depression).
What Are the Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Saint Bernards?
- Hobbles, or walks/trots with an irregular gait
- Tries to keep weight off one of the rear legs
- Starts to slow down or limp on a favorite walk or run
- Stays in bed instead of playing outdoors
- Whimpers or yelps when climbing stairs
- Flinches when the hip area or lower back are touched
What Happens in Hip Dysplasia – Why Does It Hurt?
Dysplasia is simply the dislocation of a bone from its proper place. “Plasia” is the Greek word for molding, so it’s easy to visualize an architectural form, like a beam or column, separating from its stabilizing molding. Hip dysplasia or displacement is one of the best-known types of dysplasia in dogs.
The degenerative process of hip dysplasia is gradual. The onset of symptoms, specifically pain, is also somewhat gradual taking place over the course of years. In simple terms, the two bones of the hip joint shift out of alignment. The structure of a dog’s hip bones is similar to our human hip formation, consisting of a precisely fitted ball-and-socket joint. This is called a “spheroidal” joint, referring to the spherical head of the distal or articulating bone, which fit into the cup-like cavity of the accompanying bone.
Perhaps because they are such hand-working structures, the ball and socket joints are prone to disease, and simple mechanical wear and damage over time.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- Hip dysplasia results in several symptoms which reduce mobility and cause pain.
- The muscles and joints become lax, and the joint capsule, a strong band of connective tissue which circled the bones for added stability, loses its elastic strength.
- As this happens, the articular (working) surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. The bones slowly separate as the soft tissues around the joint degenerate. The disease may affect one or both right and left hips.
With the loss of protective scaffolding between the bone surfaces, the nerves in the bone endings themselves become exposed. When bone touches bone, there is acute pain. In addition, the loss of tensile strength of the supporting tendons, muscle, and cartilage means that other structures in the hip and leg must compensate in terms of weight-bearing and movement. This unnatural compensation may cause fatigue and pain. It may even cause the dog to injure itself—running to catch a Frisbee, or climbing stairs, for instance.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia?
Experts disagree as to the source of hip dysplasia in dogs.
Too much food
One theory is that feeding a young, growing dog too many calories early in its development contributes to the disorder.
Too much exercise
Another theory is that too much exercise, or the wrong kind of exercise, or simply too much high-impact exercise, such as fetching, jumping, and catching a ball or Frisbee on concrete, contributes to hip dysplasia.
A factual observation about this condition is that hip dysplasia tends to affect large breeds more so than smaller dogs. This, too, is relative—it is possible for small dogs to become affected by hip dysplasia, too. However, we correctly associate the condition most frequently with big breeds.
These breeds do carry a genetic predisposition toward the condition. It is also true that purebreds, especially large dogs, are most likely to become vulnerable to hip dysplasia, therefore calling upon informed and responsible breeding practices.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Dog’s Quality of Life
Our first instinct as dog lovers is to stop the pain. Sometimes our decision-making process is clouded by emotion—guilt, fear, even panic when we see our beloved canine companion suffering. Many conventional treatments for hip dysplasia in dogs have side effects, or simply don’t work.
1) Try Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula
A naturopathic doctor developed Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula. These offer support and relief for many conditions affecting your dog’s joints including hip dysplasia, arthritis, and inflammatory diseases. These are also common in dogs, attacking the cartilage, muscles, and membrane linings of cartilage and joints.
These may offer your dog safe alternatives: calming inflammation as an immediate solution and helping to rebuild joint integrity as a long-range treatment. These trusted products can slow or even stop the degeneration of the hip joint. In many cases, hip replacement surgery which is the last resort may be prevented altogether. For over 30 years, Winston’s formulas have helped thousands of dogs from all over the world.
2) Schedule a visit with your veterinarian
If your dog is clearly in pain, schedule a visit with your veterinarian. An X-ray examination will be recommended as a first step.
3) Monitor your dog’s weight
Obesity makes hip dysplasia worse. If your dog becomes less active, weight gain may become a challenge. Eliminate treats, and if possible, offer your dog low-impact exercises like stretching and swimming.
4) Remove unnecessary physical stressors from your dog’s life
5) Replace stairs with a ramp
While your dog is recovering, this prevents further damage to the damaged hip.
6) Provide a padded dog bed
Sleeping on a hard surface may increase the inflammation associated with hip dysplasia. A gel bed, which actually contains a soft jelly that conforms to your dog’s body, relieves pressure from sore joints.
7) Experiment with low-heat heating pads or fleece-covered hot water bottles
Together with gentle massages, these ways relax your dog and provide comfort during the healing process.
Is Your Dog Experiencing Hip Dysplasia or Other Forms of Pain?
We Can Help.
Does your dog have trouble walking, standing, or getting up? There is an excellent chance we can help your dog.
Since 1990, Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula have helped heal over twenty thousand dogs from all over the world. Our staff specializes in hip dysplasia, arthritis, and all joint pain & mobility issues.
To start your dog’s pain-free life, please contact us at www.dogshealth.com or call our toll-free number at 888-901-5557.