Sunday, July 26, 2009


OK, this is your last chance to name this painting and the artist. Remember that last week, Helpful Buckeye opened Questions On Dogs and Cats with the story of the 40th anniversary of the manned lunar landing. Artist Joan Miro, born in Barcelona, Spain, painted "Dog Barking at Moon" in 1926. Miro didn't die until 1983, so he was also able to witness the manned lunar landing. Helpful Buckeye has to wonder if Miro didn't think just a little about his painting on that night of 20 July 1969....

At any rate, popular myths exist about dogs barking at the moon, but none of these myths have been substantiated by any credible research. There are a couple of theories that make the most sense to me. First, considering that in evolutionary history, dogs have always been animals that lived and traveled in packs, they relied heavily on sight and sound for staying together. At night, they couldn't rely very much on sight and, therefore, had to resort more to barking for communication. Since our skies have at least part of the moon visible on most nights, early human observers thought the barking was directed at the moon. Secondly, behaviorists have observed that dogs will bark at any really bright light shining at night, whether it be the moon, a floodlight, or a distant bright train headlight. It is thought they might be doing so out of a sense of danger and making some sort of attempt to "scare" the light source. Until scientists can get into the minds of dogs a little deeper, this will remain one of those unanswerable questions.

The first poll question last week showed that most of you would prefer to rely on establishing a good ancestral history of having "normal" hips before acquiring a new puppy. The second poll question revealed that many of you have already been to a restaurant that allowed your dog to come along with you. Perhaps this trend will be increasing in the USA? Don't forget to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Any comments or questions, please send an e-mail to: or click on the word, "Comment," at the end of this issue and submit a comment.


1) Recent food safety outbreaks and recalls have caused many people to question the efficiency and effectiveness of our federal food safety system. In this new podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Ron DeHaven, Chief Executive Officer of the AVMA, explains which federal agencies work to keep our food safe and discusses what the government can do to improve food safety. Take a few minutes to listen to Dr. DeHaven's presentation so that you will have a better understanding of which part of our government is responsible for food safety issues for both you and your pets:

Helpful Buckeye has addressed this topic in numerous previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats. You can access those articles by clicking on "Food Safety" and "Pet Food Recall" in the Labels column to the left.

2) In a July 20, 2009 advisory, the Food and Drug Administration, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, listed tips for using flea and tick products on pets. The EPA advises pet owners to talk to your veterinarian about responsible and effective use of flea and tick products, carefully follow label directions, and monitor your pets for any signs of a bad reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time. Keep the product package after use in case side effects occur. You will want to have the instructions available, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.

Reporting Problems

For more information on adverse reactions related to the spot-on type applications for flea and tick control, go to this EPA web site for their advice on increased scrutiny of these products:

3) The AVMA has released a summary of a study on pet owners who also are smokers and their potential efforts to quit smoking. According to the study, the motivation would come from the knowledge that second-hand smoke is also dangerous to their pets.

Study finds pet owners who smoke will try to quit for animals' health

About 28 percent of pet owners who smoke would try to quit if they knew that secondhand smoke endangered their pets, according to recent research. The authors concluded that educational campaigns informing pet owners of the dangers of secondhand-smoke exposure to pets could motivate some owners to quit smoking. Educational campaigns also could motivate these pet owners and nonsmoking pet owners who live with smokers to make their homes smoke free.

For more details on the study, go to:

Helpful Buckeye has also covered the topic of second-hand smoke in 2 previous issues, which you can access at:


Description of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of worldwide significance that infects many species of animals as well as humans. The organism is of the Leptospira genus, with more than 230 distinct forms known. Only 4-8 of these variants are of importance for dogs and cats. These different strains produce different levels and types of disease depending on the animals they infect. While cats can be infected, they rarely show signs of the disease. On the other hand, Leptospirosis is much more of a problem in dogs, humans, and livestock. Within dog populations, certain strains of the bacterium appear to affect urban dogs, while other strains affect dogs in rural and suburban areas.


Dogs can become infected with the Leptospira organism through both direct and indirect transmission. Direct transmission involves contact with an infected animal through mating (venereal), trans-placental (from parent to offspring during a pregnancy), or fighting (bite wounds). Indirect transmission occurs through exposure of susceptible animals to contaminated (mostly from rats or already-infected dogs) water sources, food, or even bedding. Stagnant or slow-moving water provides a suitable habitat for the organism. In these cases, transmission is more prominent in periods of very wet weather and flooding.

From the ASPCA comes this report: June’s near-constant rains may have helped make dogs in New York City critically ill. In recent weeks, several otherwise healthy dogs are believed to have died from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted in several ways: through bites, contact with the urine of an infected animal, or exposure to contaminated soil, food, or bedding.

“Leptospirosis crops up periodically all over the country,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “It’s more prevalent in wetter regions and less of a risk in cool, dry areas.” Outbreaks increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. Dog runs with poor drainage that also lack a source of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for catching the disease.

In rural and suburban areas, increased exposure to raccoons and opossums, as communities encroach on wildlife habitats, may explain the increased incidence of Leptospirosis. Of course, in urban settings, the main rodent responsible for aiding in transmission is still the rat.

The organism gains entrance to the bloodstream through mucous membranes (nose, mouth, or genital tract) or wounds. Once in the bloodstream, the organisms spread rapidly to body organs, mainly the liver, spleen, and kidneys.


The ASPCA urges dog owners to be on the lookout for the following signs: fever, vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy, coughing and labored breathing. Infected dogs may become jaundiced (yellowing of the eyes and skin) if the liver is involved or stop urinating if the disease affects the kidneys. There is no age or gender predilection. The incubation period is 4-12 days and most signs of infection will show up within that time period. Since there are different degrees of severity, depending on the organs involved, the signs observed may be all of the above or only some of them. The majority of dogs with only moderate involvement of their liver and/or kidneys will go on to recover from the disease, although they may need further treatment due to shedding the organisms in their urine for months or years.


Leptospirosis is most often diagnosed through a blood serum test that measures the level of antibody present. Further tests would then be used to determine which variant is responsible for that particular infection. In some cases, the bacterium can also be isolated from a urine specimen. Once Leptospira is indicated by these tests, other blood tests will need to be done to help determine how much involvement there is with the liver and kidneys. These results will help in determining the outlook for recovery.


There are several antibiotics from which your veterinarian can choose that will effectively kill the Leptospira organisms. In addition to this antibiotic therapy, any liver or kidney disease would be treated with intravenous or subcutaneous fluids to help correct any dehydration. Special consideration would need to be given to a vomiting patient.


Prevention involves keeping animals out of contact with potential sources of infection including contaminated water sources, certain wildlife populations, and domestic animals that are either already infected or chronic carriers. Humans can also contract Leptospirosis from these sources and any potentially infected animal should be handled very carefully. Limiting the exposure of your dog to Leptospira may necessitate draining or fencing off sources of possibly contaminated water. Rodents may need to be better controlled in residential and rural areas. One of the best ways to do this is to seal and protect all sources of dog food that rodents might get into.

Furthermore, as Dr. Murray of the ASPCA warns, “when outdoors, whether at the dog run or by a pond, dog owners must be vigilant about not letting their pets drink stagnant water.”

There are numerous vaccines available for the common variants of Leptospira. These are what make up the “L” in the DHL or DHLPP vaccines most of you have gotten for your dogs in the past. Most of these vaccines are given as part of the puppy series of shots at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and then are boostered at yearly intervals, depending upon your veterinarian’s recommendation. Part of the shortcoming of these vaccines is knowing which variant your dog might be exposed to, since there does not appear to be good cross-immunity between the variants. Many local veterinary hospitals and some of the university veterinary hospitals no longer recommend that household urban dogs be vaccinated for Leptospirosis due to some reactions that are being seen to the vaccine and to the unpredictability of which variant may be involved. Due to the low infection rate seen in cats, there are currently no vaccines available for them.

If you have any concerns about the exposure risk of your dog to the Leptospira organism and the advisability of getting the vaccine, you should take the time to have that discussion with your veterinarian in order to clarify your particular situation.


The AVMA has put together a list of questions and answers to help pet owners with a very current topic of interest:

What animal owners should know about Internet pharmacies

With the recent emergence of Internet pharmacies, many pet owners have questions regarding their safety and credibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) appreciates the rising cost of health care for pets as well as humans, but cautions pet owners to be aware of the risks that may be involved. Like you, we want to ensure the highest quality of care for your animal.

Q: A friend told me about an Internet site that sells drugs for pets, and it's cheaper than I pay at my veterinarian. Why shouldn't I order my pet's drugs over the Internet?

A: Finding a "deal" makes you feel you've outsmarted the system. But it's only a great "deal" if you're also receiving a quality product. Without quality, lower prices can prove to be a false savings. And sometimes the prices are not lower.

Q: Internet pharmacies sound like a good deal. But some people are against buying drugs from them. Why?

A: A number of problems have been reported, such as sales of pet medications without valid prescriptions. These drugs could pose a health threat to pets, and we're concerned about the welfare of these animals.

Q: Why can't I get a prescription from just any veterinarian?

A: For the same reason you can't walk into any doctor's office that's listed in the telephone directory and ask for a prescription for yourself. Because it's illegal, not to mention unethical, for a veterinarian to authorize a prescription without a valid "veterinarian-client-patient relationship." In order for you to get a legal prescription, you must be a "patient of record."

Q: Can I buy my pet's drugs from a Canadian Internet pharmacy?

A: No. The importation and use of drugs not approved by the FDA is illegal.

Q: I found an Internet pharmacy that says I don't need a prescription. Do I?

A: It is illegal and unethical for a pharmacy to send prescription drugs for animals without a valid prescription obtained from your veterinarian.

Q: Well then, how can I find an Internet pharmacy that's credible?

A: We haven't found a fool-proof way to assure a "good" pharmacy. That's why the AVMA acknowledges a program called "Vet-VIPPS," a voluntary certification program created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The Vet-VIPPS seal of approval identifies those online pharmacies that are, according to NABP, appropriately licensed, are legitimately operating via the Internet, and that have successfully completed a rigorous criteria review and inspection. If you do experience problems, you should report the pharmacy to the Boards of Pharmacy in your state and the pharmacy's state.

Q: Can my veterinarian tell me if the Internet pharmacy I'm using complies with regulations designed to protect me?

A: No. Veterinarians cannot ensure compliance nor are they obligated to do so.

Q: If I'm still thinking about buying my pet's medications over the Internet, what should I do?

A: Please be careful. Insist on the same quality that you would expect from your veterinary clinic or from your neighborhood pharmacy. Your pet deserves nothing less.

Q: What else can I do?

A: Talk to your veterinarian. He or she wants to offer both convenience and good will, and is likely to offer you some assurance about the legitimacy and safety of his/her medication.


1) This past week, Mark Buerhle, of the Chicago White Sox, pitched what was only the 16th perfect game since 1900 for Major League Baseball. For those of you who aren't baseball fans, a perfect game means that no hitter reaches base, by any method...not by a hit, an error, a walk, not hit-by-pitch, not by catcher's interference. It's one of the most impressive feats in any of the major sports. Anyway, Mark Buerhle has for awhile been an advocate for the Humane Society of the United States, as part of their Pets for Life program. Watch him in this short public service announcement:

2) The American Humane Association, by way of Marie Belew Wheatley, their President and CEO, has issued their response to the latest developments in the on-going Michael Vick situation:

Spend just a few minutes reading Ms. Wheatley's opinion piece and try to draw your own conclusions about this very sensitive issue.

3) This past week, Gidget, the trustworthy Chihuahua of Taco Bell advertising fame, passed away in California at the age of 15. See if you remember this film clip from 1997, featuring Gidget: Then, read this short memorial tribute to Gidget, a very popular dog:

4) In a ghastly story from Kentucky, we are reminded of the gory potential that exists in the human and dog relationship. Fortunately, the story has a better outcome than what you might have expected:

5) The ASPCA has released this news update about an increased incidence of Leptospirosis in New York City: “Leptospirosis crops up periodically all over the country,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. “It’s more prevalent in wetter regions and less of a risk in cool, dry areas.” Outbreaks increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. Dog runs with poor drainage that also lack a source of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for catching the disease.

Helpful Buckeye has received a few questions concerning the disease Leptospirosis and, with this news story from the ASPCA, decided this would be the perfect time to include a more in-depth presentation on the disease.

6) For a free sample of Greenies Dental Treats for your cat or dog, go to: and fill out the form.

7) For free samples of products from Doggy Delightz, an all natural-organic doggy bakery, go to: and fill out the form.


The LA Dodgers completed a fairly successful home stand, winning 6 of 10 games. They still aren't pounding the ball consistently like they were before the All-Star break. A big test awaits on the upcoming road trip to St. Louis and Atlanta, where both teams have been playing well.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye went to see The Lion King stage production this week, along with our two favorite Cowpokes. We all agreed the production was beautifully done, especially with the costumes, staging, and imagination. The folks at Disney sure came up with a winner on this one!

Our old friend, Mark Twain, stopped by this week with this quote: " far as being on the verge of being a sick man I don't take any stock in that. I have been on the verge of being an angel all of my life, but it's never happened yet." - Mark Twain, a Biography

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Wow, now that I have your attention with this photo of a full moon, how many of you remember where you were 40 years ago tomorrow, 20 July 1969? Desperado and Helpful Buckeye were sitting in our tiny apartment, in married student housing, in graduate school at Florida State University, and not quite certain of the importance of what we were about to see on the TV. It's impossible to forget the transmitted pictures of Neil Armstrong as he took the first step on the moon.

As the many turns of events that occur in our lives bring us to unexpected destinations, Desperado and Helpful Buckeye find ourselves in Flagstaff, AZ, where those early astronauts came for part of their training before the attempted lunar landing. Tomorrow evening, we'll be attending a 40th anniversary of that first lunar landing, being held at Lowell Observatory, in downtown Flagstaff. Lowell Observatory is also where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930.

Except for those of you who still believe the lunar landing was filmed on the back lot of a movie studio, I'm sure the rest of us consider the event one of the most striking accomplishments in our lifetime. Believe it or not, there actually is a connection between this event and Questions On Dogs and Cats...and this picture proves it:
Special recognition to anyone who knows the name of the painting and the artist. More on this next week.

Apparently,not very many of our readers have faith in the pet horoscopes we discussed last week. Only 20% of you said you'd be likely to follow them for your pet, while the other 80% said either "not at all" or "you didn't care, one way or the other." Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


1) To help reduce the estimated 500,000 pets affected by home fires each year, The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services today (16 July 2009) launched the inaugural "National Pet Fire Safety Day." This nationwide awareness day educates pet owners about potential risks when pets are left home alone and provides them with proven prevention measures to ensure their safety. For the rest of the story and a list of tips on keeping your pets safe from house fires, go to:

As an extra benefit, you can obtain a free pet alert window cling by going to:

2) The American Veterinary Medical Association has released this information about a new vaccine for dogs:

USDA approves canine flu virus vaccine
The Department of Agriculture announced in June that it had issued a conditional license for the first canine influenza virus vaccine.

For the rest of the press release, go to:

So far, this recently-recognized disease of dogs seems to be associated with kennels and with dogs living in close-quarters. If you have any questions about the incidence of canine flu virus in your area or advice about the vaccine, check with your regular veterinarian.


Much to the credit of our readers, many of you have sent e-mails stating that, even though you've never had a dog with Hip Dysplasia, you were very interested in learning about the painful arthritis associated with this disease. A lot of the lessons learned about Hip Dysplasia can be applied to other forms of arthritis as well. After giving a preliminary review of medical and surgical treatment last week, Helpful Buckeye is presenting a more detailed description of those options in this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

General Guidelines For Medical Treatment

Once evidence of osteoarthritis is detected on an X-ray, dysplastic changes are irreversible and usually continue to progress over time. If a dysplastic dog has secondary arthritis and pain, most owners elect to first treat their dog with medical management. The two main keys to medical management of arthritis are weight control and exercise management. Studies have shown that up to 76% of severely dysplastic dogs with arthritis secondary to HD are able to function and live comfortable quality lives with conservative medical management.

With weight control, the goal is to prevent the dog from becoming overweight to reduce mechanical stresses applied to the hip joints. In general terms, the ribs should be easily palpated and there should be an indentation in front of the pelvic wings (waist line).

Controlled exercise is indicated to prevent or relieve the inflammatory process that leads to the pain associated with arthritis. The amount and difficulty of the activity is determined on a trial and error basis. Exercise should start with short leash walks and be gradually increased until the dog reaches the desired level of activity. If clinical signs start to reappear, the amount of exercise is scaled back to a level that will not cause clinical signs. Overall, exercise should fit to an individual dog's maximum intensity level with the goal to maintain muscle tone and cardiovascular function without causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation to the joint. The right amount of exercise helps to maintain muscle tone and strength which can help make the unstable dysplastic joint stronger. Exercise also improves joint range of motion which in turn, keeps the dog more comfortable. Swimming, because it is a non-weight bearing exercise, can be a very useful means of maintaining muscle tone and range of motion without placing concussive forces on the joint.

A third and lesser factor in the conservative medical management of hip dysplasia is keeping the dog in a warm environment. Warmth tends to help control the pain of arthritis from hip dysplasia. As in people, arthritic pain in dogs tends to be worse in the damp and cold of winter. Providing a well-padded and warm bed will help alleviate some of the pain associated with osteoarthritis. An egg-crate foam bed for dogs is commercially available. Applying superficial heat in the form of heating pads may also relieve pain. Care must be taken not to burn the skin especially with an electric heating pad. Heat works best for chronically inflamed joints from arthritis while cold works better to treat acute (sudden) types of joint injury.

Because of the high cost involved with corrective surgeries, medical management is many times the only realistic option for pet owners. Medical management is multifaceted. For the best results, several of the following approaches should be instituted:

  • Weight Management: Helping a dog maintain his recommended weight may be the single most important thing owners can do for their pets. Surgical procedures and medical therapies will be far more successful if the animal is not overweight. You, as the owner, have control over what your dog eats. If you feed a quality food in an amount appropriate for your dog's size, breed and activity level and keep treats to a minimum, your dog should be able to maintain an ideal weight. Considering that more than half of the pets in the U.S. are overweight, there is a fair chance that many of the dogs with hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis are also overweight. If your dog is overweight, seek the advice of your veterinarian concerning a lower calorie dog food and an exercise program.

  • Exercise: Exercise is equally important in losing and/or maintaining the appropriate weight. Exercise that provides good range of motion and muscle building as well as limiting wear and tear on the joints is best. Leash walks, swimming, walking on treadmills, and slow jogging are excellent low-impact exercises. Bear in mind that an exercise program needs to be individualized for each dog based on the severity of the osteoarthritis, his weight, age, and physical condition. In general, too little exercise can be more detrimental than too much, however the wrong type of exercise can actually cause harm. While playing Frisbee can be very enjoyable and fun for the dog, it is extremely hard on his joints. Remember, it is important to exercise daily; only exercising on weekends, for example, may cause more harm than good. Regular exercise in shorter sessions is always better than long work-outs on weekends. Warming the muscles prior to exercise and following exercise with a "warm-down" period are beneficial. Consult with your veterinarian regarding an exercise program appropriate for your dog.

  • Warmth and good sleeping areas: Most people with arthritis find that the symptoms tend to worsen in cold, damp weather. Keeping your pet warm, may help him be more comfortable. A pet sweater will help keep joints warmer. In addition, you may want to consider keeping the temperature in your home a little warmer. Providing an orthopedic foam bed helps many dogs with arthritis. Beds with dome-shaped, orthopedic foam distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. They are also much easier for the pet to get out of. Place the bed in a warm spot away from drafts.

  • Massage and physical therapy: Your veterinarian or the veterinary staff can show you how to perform physical therapy and massage on your dog to help relax stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion in the joints. Remember, your dog is in pain, so start slowly and build trust. Begin by petting the area and work up to gently kneading the muscles around the joint with your fingertips using small, circular motions. Gradually work your way out to the surrounding muscles. Moist heat may also be beneficial.

  • Making daily activities less painful: Going up and down stairs is often difficult for arthritic dogs; it can make going outside to urinate and defecate very difficult. Many people build or buy ramps, especially on stairs leading to their yard, to make it easier for their dogs to go outside. Ramps also make car travel easier for arthritic dogs.

Medical management of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis has greatly improved thanks to the introduction and approval of several new drugs. Because hip dysplasia is primarily an inherited condition, there are no products on the market that prevent its development. Through proper diet, exercise, supplements, anti-inflammatories, and pain relief, you may be able to decrease the progression of degenerative joint disease, but the looseness in the joint or bony changes will not change significantly.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

  • Carprofen (Rimadyl), etodolac (EtoGesic), deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), tepoxalin (Zubrin), meloxicam (Metacam): These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) developed for use in dogs with osteoarthritis. They are very effective painkillers that also reduce inflammation. They are prescription products and because of potential side effects, careful adherence to dosing quantity and frequency must be followed. The manufacturers recommend that patients taking these medications have a thorough physical examination along with appropriate blood-work (especially tests for liver health) performed before starting these medications. In addition, patients taking these products should be periodically monitored to make sure that they are tolerating the medication. These products are often used initially with glucosamine therapy and then as the glucosamine product begins to work, the NSAID dose may be reduced or even eliminated. NSAID's (including aspirin) should never be combined unless directed by your veterinarian.

  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids have been used for many years to treat the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, however, their use is controversial. Corticosteroids act as a potent anti-inflammatory, but unfortunately, they have many undesirable short and long-term side effects. Because of these side effects and the advent of newer, more specific drugs, corticosteroids are generally only used in older animals with flare-ups where all other pain control products have failed. Corticosteroids are a prescription product and come in both a pill and injectable form.

Surgical Interventions

In younger dogs usually less than 10 months old with only partial looseness of the hip joint caused by dysplasia, a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO), a surgical procedure involving three cuts through the pelvic bone, can be performed to re-establish joint stability, encourage normal joint development, and minimize abnormal biomechanical forces on the joint before osteoarthritis occurs. This procedure is not advised if osteoarthitis is already present. Recovery time is about 6 weeks and a good success rate has been reported with return of normal hip function.

For older dogs (over 10 months) that already have established osteoarthritis and can no longer be medically managed, a total hip replacement is the treatment of choice for re-establishing normal, pain-free limb function and joint mechanics. A high degree of success has been reported with this surgery and like the TPO, post-op recovery is about 4-6 weeks. The main disadvantage to this surgery is the high cost.

An alternative surgery, which is more of a salvage procedure when there is significant osteoarthritis and a total hip replacement is cost prohibitive, would be a femoral head and neck excision (removing the ball of the ball-and-socket joint). This eliminates hip pain by removing the femoral head and neck and initiating the development of a false joint that permits mobility. The false joint is less stable with a reduced range of motion than the normal joint which in turn, can cause an abnormal gait. Nevertheless, pain relief with adequate function can be achieved. The procedure can be performed in all dogs of all sizes, but there are usually better long-term success rates in smaller dogs less than 20 kg (about 44 pounds). Preoperative muscle mass and early postoperative physical therapy are two important factors in determining a successful outcome. This surgery is usually not as successful if there is severe muscle wasting (atrophy) present and/or the animal is obese. Heavier dogs usually require more extensive postoperative rehabilitation to help promote an ambulatory pain-free false joint. Rehabilitation is aimed at preserving and promoting the leg's muscle mass, strength and range of motion through early (3-5 days) postoperative weight bearing ambulation and passive range-of-motion exercises. Early mobility can be achieved by assisting the dog in getting up and walking. A towel can be placed under the abdomen to make assistance easier to perform in heavy dogs. Leash walks and/or swimming beginning the day of discharge from the hospital should be performed until near normal use of the leg returns. Passive range of motion physical therapy is also necessary to increase muscle strength and flexibility. Dogs that are obese, inactive or have substantial muscle atrophy and have poor owner compliance with physical therapy recommendations are poor candidates for this surgery. Of course, any dog being treated medically or surgically for hip dysplasia should be removed from the breeding chain and the surest way of doing that is to have the dog neutered or spayed. The prognosis, or outlook, is highly variable and depends on the overall health and environment of the animal. In general, if surgery is indicated and performed correctly, it is beneficial. Animals on which surgery is not performed may require an alteration in lifestyle in order to lead a comfortable existence, as was discussed under medical treatments.

What can breeders do?

Hip dysplasia appears to be perpetuated by breeder-imposed breeding practices, but when breeders and their breed clubs recognize HD as a problem and establish reduction of HD as a priority, improvement of the hip status can be accomplished without jeopardizing other desirable traits. Prospective buyers should check pedigrees and/or verify health issues with the breeder. If suitable documentation is not available, assume the worst until proven otherwise.
Do not ignore the dog with a fair hip evaluation. The dog is still within normal limits. For example; a dog with fair hips but with a strong hip background and over 75% of its brothers and sisters being normal is a good breeding prospect. A dog with excellent hips, but with a weak family background and less than 75% of its brothers and sisters being normal is a poor breeding prospect.

OFA's Recommended Breeding Principles:

  • Breed normals to normals

  • Breed normals with normal ancestry

  • Breed normals from litters (brothers/sisters) with a low incidence of Hip Dysplasia

  • Select a sire that produces a low incidence of Hip Dysplasia

  • Replace dogs with dogs that are better than the breed average

The OFA accepts preliminary consultation radiographs on puppies as young as 4 months of age for evaluation of hip conformation. If the dog is found to be dysplastic at an early age, the economic loss from the cost of training, handling, showing and so forth can be minimized and the emotional loss reduced. These preliminary radiographs are read by the OFA veterinary radiologists and are not sent to outside radiologists. The same hip grades are given to preliminary cases.

How do we prevent hip dysplasia?

When it comes to preventing hip dysplasia, there is only one thing that all researchers agree on; selective breeding is crucial. We know that through selectively breeding animals with certified hips, we can significantly reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia. We also know that we can increase the incidence of hip dysplasia if we choose to use dysplastic animals for breeding. Breeding two animals with excellent hips does not guarantee that all of the offspring will be free of hip dysplasia, but there will be a much lower incidence than if we breed two animals with fair or poor hips. If we only bred animals with excellent hips it would not take long to make hip dysplasia a rare occurrence. If owners insisted on only purchasing an animal that had parents and grandparents with certified good or excellent hips, or if breeders only bred these excellent animals, then the majority of the problems caused by hip dysplasia would be eliminated. For someone looking to purchase a dog, the best way to lower the possibility of getting an animal that develops hip dysplasia is to examine the incidence of hip dysplasia in the litter's lineage. It is best to examine the parents and grandparents out to three or four generations. There are many different theories on how to prevent the progression of hip dysplasia. As discussed earlier, poor nutrition, inadequate or improper exercise, and increased body weight may all contribute to the severity of osteoarthritis after the hip dysplasia has developed. Following solid recommendations for exercise and nutrition may help, but will never come close to controlling or eliminating the disease if stricter requirements for certified hips are not instituted or demanded.

Any comments, please send an e-mail to or click on the "Comment" at the end of this issue.


1) For those of you who may have missed this story, pay attention!

"Smokey, a 12-week-old chihuahua puppy, ended up with a large barbecue fork in his brain after the utensil snapped in half on the grill, flew through the air, and impaled the poor puppy's head."

To read the whole account of this pup's ordeal, go to: and be sure not to miss the actual photo of the impaled puppy.

2) Dan Vergano, a writer for the USA Today, has summarized an interesting article from the scientific journal, Current Biology. He reports that "Cats pull people's strings with hidden meows, as an acoustic analysis of feline purrs suggests. Mealtime purring from 10 cats was compared with normal purring. Even people without cats could tell these solicitation purrs apart from regular ones, and the study shows a high-pitched meow was hidden within the purrs, signaling urgency. Solicitation purring is probably more acceptable to humans than overt meowing, which is likely to get cats ejected from the bedroom, added researcher, and author of the study, Karen McComb."

3) It used to be that you couldn't do much to make a neighbor with a barking dog keep their dog quiet. Well, a woman in Phoenix has found out that there is something that can be done. "Renee Maurer was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation and a $940 fine in Phoenix Municipal Court for allowing her dogs to disturb the peace of her northeast neighborhood."

For the rest of the story, go to the Arizona Republic at:

The only thing that surprised Helpful Buckeye was that this involved a Pomeranian and a miniature Poodle, when you might have expected a much larger and louder dog to be responsible.

4) On the lighter side, Helpful Buckeye found this web site that should appeal to our readers with dogs, who want to take their pooch to dinner with them. "Our database of dog friendly restaurants was started by Caleb, an Australian Shepherd, who loves to travel and eat out with his humans Dale and Marilyn. Over the years many of Caleb's canine and human friends have added to the database with their own comments about the food, service, ambiance and general dog-friendliness."

Go to their web site for restaurant reviews and remember to click on your state for dog-friendly restaurants near you:

5) The ASPCA is sponsoring the 2009 Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month Photo Contest. All you have to is go to their web site and click on the cat that appeals to you the most:

Helpful Buckeye likes Chloe....


The LA Dodgers still have the best record in baseball. Coming out of the All-Star break, we have split a 4-game series with Houston, a team we have always had trouble beating.


Several of our readers wrote in about the photo on my profile last week and wondered if I had any other photos like that. Well, I do and here is one more:

I took this photo near Buellton, CA, on the road to Lompoc, CA.

Helpful Buckeye was fortunate to have been going UP a hill rather than DOWN the hill this past week, when the rear axle and sprocket assembly on my bike decide to fall apart!

I missed a day of riding while it was being repaired, but that gave me plenty of time to contemplate how much worse it could have been!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Helpful Buckeye would like to welcome all of our new readers to Questions On Dogs and Cats. You have either been referred here by a friend or by another blog or web site that made a mention of our blog site. To help you navigate your way through our blog, here are a few suggestions:

  • Questions On Dogs and Cats is published once a week, late on Sunday evening.

  • We always have a polling question or two each week, which you can find in the column to the left. These are for the most part related to some topic in that week's blog issue. Please participate by answering these questions...your answers are anonymous, but may help spur further discussion of the question.

  • The topics that have been discussed in our weekly issues are listed in alphabetical order under "Labels" in the column to the left. These topics are "clickable" and, therefore, easily accessed. If a topic has been discussed more than once, all pertinent weekly issues will show up on your screen when you click on the topic.

  • There are two ways to communicate with Helpful sending an e-mail and by clicking on the word, "Comment," at the end of each weekly issue. After clicking on "Comment," you will have the choice of responding as "Anonymous" or by a name of your choice. Any reader can read the comments by clicking on "Comment" and you can respond to any of the comments as well as any of the topics in that weekly issue. Our e-mail address is: . Participating by either or both of these avenues will allow for a better exchange of ideas, opinions, and questions. Please do so when you feel the urge!

  • Many of you have sent in questions that have eventually turned into discussion topics. Helpful Buckeye will include as many of these as possible.

  • Remember that many of you found out about Questions On Dogs and Cats by way of a referral, so please continue to "pay it forward" and pass on our blog site address to anyone you feel might enjoy and/or benefit from joining us weekly. The blog site address is:

  • If you would like to declare yourself as a "Follower" of this blog, go to "Followers" in the left column and click on "Follow," then simply fill in the blanks. Again, you can choose to be anonymous or not. This is simply a way for other readers to know who else is following the blog.

  • Some of you have sent in questions about some of Helpful Buckeye's other interests. For similar questions, again go to the left column, under "About Me" and click on "View my complete profile."

OK, now that we've taken care of that, it's time to get into our weekly swing and talk about dog and cat stuff! The polling question last week produced an interesting result. It seems that most of our readers have NOT ever had a dog be diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia. In a way, that's actually good news for those readers. There may be several reasons for this result, the most likely being that public awareness of the disease has reduced its rate of incidence. The other very likely reason is that the dog-owning public has gradually shifted its preference from pure breeds of dogs to the mixed breeds so popular from adoption groups. Be sure to answer this week's polling question in the left column.


1) Some astounding, and almost unbelievable, numbers are a part of this report from The Arizona Republic this past week. "More than 12,000 pit bulls were abandoned at (Maricopa) county shelters last year...though pit bulls account for only about 3 percent of the registered dog population, they represent nearly one-third of shelter dogs...the dogs' limited tolerance for confinement and the public's reluctance to adopt them forced county shelters to euthanize nearly 10,000 pit bulls last year, almost 1,000 more than in least that many, if not more, will be euthanized again this year, according to the county's projections." Do those numbers get your attention, the way they did to me? Bear in mind that this is just one county (albeit, including the huge city of Phoenix) and we've got to think that these same numbers are being seen in other areas of the least, in the bigger cities. That's a lot of dogs being euthanatized, especially from one breed! Read the whole article at:

2) The American Kennel Club has announced an interesting program they will be sponsoring in a few months. This September, hundreds of AKC affiliated clubs and other dog organizations will be celebrating AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day all across the country. You can join the fun by attending an event in your area! Go to this site: and enter your state in the box to find out what events will be offered in your location.

3) The Humane Society of the United States joined forces with several other agencies this past week over an 8-state area in accomplishing "The Largest Dogfighting Raid in U.S. History." To read the whole very interesting account, go to: It's quite a story!


Many of our readers responded to the discussion of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs in last week's issue to say that, even though they had not had a pet dog ever diagnosed with this disease, they did know someone who did. Even with all the publicity this disease has received over the last 40 years, it still persists in certain breed populations. Helpful Buckeye introduced you to Hip Dysplasia last week, including its probable causes and breeds most likely to be affected. This week (Part 2 of a 3-part series,) our discussion will center on the signs of this disease, making the diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia, and a general treatment approach.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia

The signs of Hip Dysplasia are similar to those seen with other causes of arthritis in the hip. Dogs often walk or run with an altered gait. They may resist movements that require full extension or flexion of the rear legs. Many times, they run with a “bunny hopping” gait, in other words, they push off with both rear legs at the same time rather than alternating them. They will show stiffness and pain in the rear legs after exercise or first thing in the morning. They may also have difficulty climbing stairs. In milder cases dogs will warm-up out of the stiffness with movement and exercise. Some dogs will limp and many will become less willing to participate in normal daily activities. Many owners of older dogs will attribute the changes to normal aging rather than to a specific disease process. As the condition progresses, most dogs will lose muscle tone and may even need assistance in getting up.

Clinical signs really are variable. Lameness may be mild, moderate, or severe, and is often pronounced after exercise. No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. There are also multiple environmental factors such as caloric intake, level of exercise, and weather that can affect the severity of clinical signs. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic damage that are severely lame.

Dogs of all ages are subject to hip dysplasia and the resultant osteoarthritis. In severe cases, puppies as young as five months can begin to show pain and discomfort during and after exercise. The condition will worsen for them until even normal daily activities are painful. Without intervention, these dogs may eventually be unable to walk. In most cases, however, the symptoms do not begin to show until the middle or later years in the dog's life.

How Is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia is typically made by combining: clinical signs of arthritis and pain, a complete physical exam, and radiographs (x-rays). If a dog is showing outward signs of arthritis, there are usually easily recognized changes in the joint that can be seen on radiographs. In addition, the veterinarian may even be able to feel looseness in the joint or may be able to elicit pain through extension and flexion of the rear leg. Regardless, the results are pretty straightforward and usually not difficult to interpret.

By comparing the X-ray on the left with that on the right, you can easily see the difference in the structures of the hip joints. The right one is deeply and cleanly seated, while the left one shows and a much shallower joint. At this point, our readers have learned enough about hip dysplasia in dogs to fully appreciate this video of a veterinary surgery specialist explaining what he looks for in making the diagnosis: Also, take the time to watch this video which provides a well-illustrated review of everything we've covered up to this point:

Another group of dogs, those with no clinical signs of hip lameness, may come in for a determination on the health of their hip joints. Their owners are usually considering breeding their dogs. The breeder wants to ensure that the animal is not at risk for passing on the disease to his or her offspring. The traditional manner of evaluating a dog’s hips for breeding purposes is OFA testing. The method used by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, , has been the standard for many years. The OFA was established in 1966, and has become the world's largest all-breed registry. The OFA maintains a database of hip evaluations for hundreds of thousands of dogs. Radiographs are taken by your veterinarian using specific OFA guidelines and are then submitted to the OFA for evaluation and certification of the dog's hip status. Since the accuracy of radiological diagnosis of hip dysplasia using the OFA technique increases after 24 months of age, the OFA requires that the dog be at least two years of age at the time the radiographs are taken. X-rays can, of course, be taken of a younger dog to determine if the changes involved with hip dysplasia are already visible. Changes visible at an early age will not improve over time and those dogs should be removed from any breeding program at that point. The 24 month requirement is for those dogs that might not be showing any X-ray changes before that.

Most dogs need to be either sedated or under anesthesia to obtain the desired quality and positioning for these diagnostic X-rays.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia

Any treatment for hip dysplasia will not involve an attempt at achieving a cure, due to the probable genetic involvement. Rather, a treatment plan will be directed at relieving the discomfort or pain resulting from the degenerative, arthritic condition of one or both hip joints. Treatments are both medical and surgical. Mild cases or nonsurgical candidates (due to health or owner constraints) may benefit from weight reduction, restriction of exercise on hard surfaces, controlled physical therapy to strengthen and maintain muscle tone, anti-inflammatory drugs ( aspirin, corticosteroids, NSAIDs), and possibly joint fluid modifiers. Surgical options include a wide array of corrective procedures that range from fairly simple to quite complex. Your veterinarian may suggest a combination of medical and surgical treatments as the best solution for your dog. Medical and surgical treatments will be discussed in further detail in next week's issue, along with information on the prognosis of those treatments, and some ideas for prevention of Hip Dysplasia.

Any comments, please send an e-mail to: or click on the "Comment" at the end of this issue.


1) Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is the nation's oldest and largest health insurance provider for pets. VPI receives more than a million claims each year. While most of these claims are for common pet conditions or routine care, every now and then a claim comes by that reminds us all just how unexpected pet accidents can be. Each month, VPI employees select and nominate one interesting claim in search of the most unusual claim of the year. All claims considered for the award are for pets that have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursement for eligible expenses. In September 2009 VPI will ask the public to vote for the year’s most unusual claim from among these monthly nominees. The top pick will receive VPI's first annual Hambone Award and designation as the most unusual claim of the year. The Hambone Award is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to find him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. Go to VPI's web site for a sometimes funny summary of the monthly winners for this year: As you can see, the April 2009 nominee is from right here in Flagstaff and was written about in our local paper.

2) Many of you sent in comments and e-mails about the skate-boarding Bulldog last week. Like all of you, Helpful Buckeye was impressed with his ability on the board. However, Ken, the Cowpoke in Flagstaff, sent in this video depicting another dog that takes this talent to a whole new level. Use your speakers and enjoy: scroll down and click on the video of "Extreme Pete"....Impressed?

3) Helpful Buckeye has presented numerous stories of Service Dogs that provide a valuable service to their owners or to people of certain needs. But, what happens when that Service Dog is also a little different than other dogs? Among Tami Skinner's three Shelties, it's easy to pick out the youngest. He's not just the smallest or the one knocked down by his brothers as they're playing catch in her backyard, but 3-year-old Dare has a more obvious distinction. He only has two legs. A front paw and a back paw which are both located on his right side. "People ask me all the time how does he walk?" said Skinner. " He just walks. He just goes because nobody's told him he can't." Go to: for the whole story of how Dare copes with his own unusual situation, then click on "Play Video" to see how he provides inspiration to some less fortunate people. This might not leave you with a dry eye!

This story was covered by KUSA in Denver, CO.

4) OK, Helpful Buckeye knows that most of you probably pooh-pooh the appeal of horoscopes and may even chide your friends who do read them. Well, now you can read the horoscope for your pets! The people at Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) have put together a comprehensive set of horoscope readings for each month of the year and how they apply to your pets: If any of our readers start to follow these horoscopes for their pet, please let us know how accurate they are.

5) Our last video of the week is quite entertaining and was sent in by Charee, the wife of Helpful Buckeye's former partner. Sit back and enjoy these thieving animals: Oh, remember to protect your popcorn, potato chips, or whatever you're snacking on...also, your bikini tops!


The LA Dodgers have won 6 out of 9 games on their current road trip, which is pretty impressive. They have the best record in the Major Leagues at the All-Star break. When the regular season resumes play on Thursday, we'll have to see how our General Manager plans to handle our need for another quality starting pitcher.


Today is the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, born in 1817, and famous for his book, Walden. He left us this quote about cats: "A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread on it." Makes sense to me!

The picture that accompanies Helpful Buckeye's profile this week was taken a few weeks ago near Albuquerque, NM.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Wow, what an Independence Day celebration! Desperado and Helpful Buckeye had a little bit of everything for our 4th of July sampler. First, we took a long walk through our neighborhood, enjoying all of the American flags and bunting being displayed. Then, we were treated to one of nature's special thunder and lightning shows during the afternoon...the kind that is tough to match with man made pyrotechnics. For dinner, we grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms to be used in our version of Mother Nature's "vegetarian " hamburger, along with baked beans, and Southwestern potato salad. With a dessert of raspberry sorbet, we watched the 4th of July show from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. And, what a show it was! Jimmy Smits, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, the cast of Jersey Boys, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Natasha Bedingfield combined to produce a 90-minute show of pure enjoyment. Just as we finished watching the show, our local fireworks display in Flagstaff began and we were able to see most of that from our deck. What a day!
Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails with birthday messages for my good buddy, Ken. Most of them were of the garden variety type of message, saying things like, "Hope he enjoys each birthday a little more than the last one," or simply, "Happy Birthday to Helpful Buckeye's special friend!" One person picked up on the "other OSU" theme and asked if Ken is a fellow Beaver, the mascot of Oregon State University. Helpful Buckeye responded that, "No, the OSU in this case is Oklahoma State University, and Ken is most definitely a Cowboy!" Thanks for all those best wishes...Ken will appreciate them!

Helpful Buckeye received the following e-mail this week from a reader in eastern Pennsylvania:

Last week, my wife came down with chills and fever. Throughout the following week her symptoms included back pain, nausea, dizziness and headaches. On Monday, June 17 she went to our family doctor who suspected Lyme Disease and on Wednesday, June 19 the blood work came back positive. Long story short -- she just returned from a seven day stay in the hospital. She has what is called Stage 1 Lyme* with acute neurologic symptoms. Her vision is double, with temporary loss of optic nerve function and a drooping eyelid. Her headaches have lessened quite a bit, but her back pain is acute (similar to shingles) and is being treated with Percocet every 6-8 hours. She has a PICC line and is being infused once a day with a powerful antibiotic called Rocephan for a total of four weeks. While in the hospital she was seen by a gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, infectious disease specialist and a neurologist. She received x-rays, ultrasounds, blood and urine work, four CAT scans and an MRI. We have been assured that the facial palsy and vision will be corrected as the antibiotic does its business.

My advice: Check yourself for ticks. Although the adults are small, perhaps 1.5 mm, the first instar nymphs are the size of this period (.). One other thought, how ironic that I'm unscathed (even though spending a lot of my time in the woods), whereas she, who hardly ventures into the back yard, is stricken.


* Lyme has three stages if no intervention sets in. Stage 1 (early Lyme) is characterized by skin rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and joint ache. Stage 2 (early disseminated Lyme) means the spirochete has spread from skin to organs like heart, joints, liver, meninges, brain. Besides the symptoms of Stage 1, the patient may have neurologic deficits including temporary loss of optic nerve, facial nerve paralysis, or even paralysis of a limb. The headaches seem to worsen because the bug is in the meninges causing meningitis. Rarely, there is an abnormal heart beat. Stage 3 (Late chronic Lyme) usually means the bug persists for years within being treated or incompletely treated. This leads to chronic neurologic deficits, memory loss, chronic arthritis, and often chronic muscle pain.

Now, that story is a first-hand testimonial to the ravages of Lyme Disease in humans. Helpful Buckeye has discussed Lyme Disease in pets in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, which can be found at: If you missed these presentations, check them out now. If you need a review, go back and read them again, but every pet owner needs to understand the threat of this disease for their pets as well as for themselves.

The two poll questions for last week produced some interesting opinions. The first question on MRSA possibly being transmitted between owners and their pets showed that almost all of you feel that you would still have those pets. The second question about attending a wedding in which a dog or cat participated showed that about half of you had done so. Perhaps Helpful Buckeye is "out of the loop" on this one because I've never seen this at a wedding. Be sure to answer the poll question for this week in the column to the left.

Any comments, send an e-mail to: or click on "Comment" and submit it at the end of this issue.


1) The American Kennel Club has reported this news item from California: The California Board of Equalization (BOE) has sent letters to several breeders in California informing them that they need a Seller's Permit and are required to pay sales tax on puppies and dogs they have sold.

If you can read between the lines, this is part of California's effort to find additional revenue to help balance their state budget. If this is successful in California, you can expect it to show up in other states as well. The rest of the AKC report is at:

2) The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has published a nice review of heat exhaustion in pets at:

Helpful Buckeye has presented two separate issues on heat exhaustion and your pets and they can be found at: and if you are looking for more in depth information on this important topic.


A form of degenerative joint disease, otherwise known as osteoarthritis, was mentioned in the last series on Arthritis and your Pets. This is the disease of Hip Dysplasia, which most of you have at least heard mentioned. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint in large dogs that is characterized by joint looseness and subsequent degenerative joint disease. Excessive growth, exercise, nutrition, and hereditary factors affect the occurrence of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia simply means an "abnormal formation" of the hip joint. Think of the condition first as a looseness in a joint that should be snug - then most of the problems that accompany hip dysplasia are a result of this "looseness". Hip dysplasia is a widespread condition that primarily affects large and giant breeds of dogs. There is a strong genetic link between parents that have hip dysplasia and the incidence in their offspring. There are probably other factors that contribute to the severity of the disease as well.

The Anatomy of Hip Dysplasia

To understand hip dysplasia, we must have a basic understanding of the joint that is being affected. The hip joint forms the attachment of the hind leg to the body and is a ball and socket joint. The ball portion is the head of the femur (thigh bone) while the socket (acetabulum) is located on the pelvis. In a normal joint the ball rotates freely within the socket. To facilitate movement the bones are shaped to perfectly match each other; with the socket surrounding the ball. To strengthen the joint, the two bones are held together by a strong ligament. The ligament attaches the femoral head directly to the acetabulum. Also, the joint capsule, which is a very strong band of connective tissue, encircles the two bones adding further stability. The area where the bones actually touch each other is called the articular surface. It is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage. In addition, the joint contains a highly viscous fluid that lubricates the articular surfaces. In a dog with normal hips, all of these factors work together to cause the joint to function smoothly and with stability.

Hip dysplasia is caused by a looseness of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the joint. As this happens, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. This separation of the two bones within the joint is called a subluxation, and this causes a drastic change in the size and shape of the articular surfaces. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips but due to their genetic make-up (and possibly other factors) the soft tissues that surround the joint develop abnormally causing the subluxation. It is this subluxation and the remodeling of the hip that leads to the symptoms we associate with this disease. Hip dysplasia may or may not be bilateral; that is, affecting both the right and/or left hip.

The very first step in the development of this form of osteoarthritis is cartilage damage due to the inherited bad biomechanics of an abnormally loose hip joint. With cartilage damage, lots of degrading enzymes are released into the joint. These enzymes degrade and decrease the synthesis of important constituent molecules that form more cartilage. This causes the cartilage to lose its thickness and elasticity, which are important in absorbing mechanical loads placed across the joint during movement. Full thickness loss of cartilage allows the bony surfaces to rub together, resulting in pain. In an attempt to stabilize the joint to decrease the pain, the animal's body produces new bone at the edges of the joint surface, joint capsule, ligament and muscle attachments (bone spurs). The joint capsule also eventually thickens and the joint's range of motion decreases.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), at:, has stated that even though the disease process of hip dysplasia is fairly straightforward, the controversy begins when determining what causes or predisposes a dog to end up with the disease.

  • Genetics: Researchers agree that hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. If a parent has hip dysplasia, then the animal's offspring are at greater risk for developing hip dysplasia. If there are no carriers of the hip dysplasia trait in a dog's lineage, then it is highly unlikely it will contract the disease. If there are genetic carriers, then he may contract the disease. We can greatly reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia through selective breeding. We can also increase the incidence through selectively breeding. We cannot, however, completely reproduce the disease through selective breeding. In other words, if you breed two dysplastic dogs, the offspring are much more likely to develop the disease but the offspring will not all have the same level of symptoms or even necessarily show any symptoms. The offspring from these dogs will, however, be carriers and the disease will most likely show up in their offspring in later generations. This is why it can be challenging to eradicate the disease from a breed or specific breeding line.

  • Nutrition: It appears that the amount of calories a dog consumes and when in the dog's life those calories are consumed have the biggest impact on whether or not a dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the disease. Experimentally, it has been shown that obesity can increase the severity of the disease in genetically susceptible animals. It stands to reason that carrying around extra weight will accelerate the degeneration of the joints in a dog; including the hip. Dogs that may have been born genetically prone to hip dysplasia and are overweight are therefore at a much higher risk of developing hip dysplasia and eventually osteoarthritis. Another nutritional factor that may increase the incidence of hip dysplasia is rapid growth in puppies during the ages from three to ten months. Experimentally, the incidence has been increased in genetically susceptible dogs when they are given free choice food. In one study, Labrador Retriever puppies fed free choice for three years had a much higher incidence of hip dysplasia than their littermates who were fed the same diet but in an amount that was 25% less than that fed to the free-choice group. Feeding a diet that has too much or too little calcium or other minerals can also have a detrimental effect on the development of the hip joint. However, with today's complete and balanced dog foods this has become a rare occurrence. The practice of feeding home-made dog foods is popular with some dog owners. These diets must be carefully monitored for proper nutritional balance; not only for calcium and the other essential minerals but for all nutrients.

  • Exercise: Exercise may be another risk factor. It appears that dogs that are genetically susceptible to the disease may have an increased incidence of disease if they are over-exercised at a young age. But at the same time, we know that dogs with large and prominent leg muscle mass are less likely to contract the disease than dogs with small muscle mass. So, exercising and maintaining good muscle mass may actually decrease the incidence of the disease. Moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles (the rump), such as running and swimming, is probably a good idea. Whereas, activities that apply a lot of force to the joint are not a good idea. An example to avoid would be jumping activities such as playing Frisbee.

Who Gets Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia can be found in dogs, cats, and humans, but for this discussion, Helpful Buckeye will be focusing only on dogs. In dogs, it is primarily a disease of large and giant breeds. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards appear to have a higher incidence; however, these are all very popular breeds and may be over represented because of their popularity. On the other hand, sighthounds such as the Greyhound or the Borzoi have a very low incidence of the disease. This disease can occur in medium-sized breeds and rarely in small breeds. It is primarily a disease of purebreds although it can happen in mixed breeds, particularly if it is a cross of two dogs that are prone to developing the disease.

For a comparative basis, the OFA has provided the results of hip x-rays (the main diagnostic test which will be discussed next week) taken over a 25-year period of at least 100 individuals from each breed of dog. Spend a few minutes looking at this chart,, observing both the column titled "number of evaluations" and "percent dysplastic." Try to draw a few conclusions of your own, based on the breed, the number of evaluations, and the percent dysplastic. We'll begin with that discussion next week as we move into the physical signs of hip dysplasia, the diagnosis of the disease, and the various treatments being used at this time.

Any comments, please send an e-mail to: or click on the "Comment" at the end of this issue.


1) The Humane Society of the United States has provided a timely video for those of you who might consider letting your dog go for a swim this summer. For some tips and good advice, go to: and, if you watch beyond this first video, you will also go right into another short video on the dangers of heat exhaustion and your pets. Are you picking up on the repetitive theme of heat exhaustion and hot temperatures???

2) The folks at Potty Patch have a new product on the market and it just might be what a lot of you have been looking for. Take a look at their web site, turn the volume on, and enjoy their presentation: Be sure to let us know if you try this product!

3) Since the subject of swimming came up in #1, here's another human sport that has attracted the interest of at least one Bulldog, named Bazooka. Go to: and play the video to watch what Bazooka has accomplished!

4) Helpful Buckeye has presented several discussions on Traveling With Your Pet. These next two items might bear some interest if you plan to take your pet with you on a trip this summer. First, if you will be near the northern Arizona city of Sedona, you might want to consider staying at El Portal, advertised as Sedona's pet-friendly inn. For staying one weeknight in July or August, they will give you a second weeknight free if you bring your pet along. Your pet will have his or her own bed and special treat basket, plus you can also request special feeding requirements. Check out this offer on their web site: You can also call them at: 800-313-0017 and ask for the "Pet's Night Free" special. Sedona is such a beautiful location...everyone should see it at least once!

5) The second travel item of interest is the ranking of airlines in order of those with the pet-friendliest policies by Pet Finder, a web site that specializes in animal adoptions. Go to their web site at: to find out why they have ranked the top 5 airlines as Continental, JetBlue, Air Tran, American, and United.

6) On a visit to Tinkertown, New Mexico, Helpful Buckeye and Desperado found these assorted dog bandannas hanging in the gift shop. Not a bad idea....


Manny Ramirez made his long-awaited return to the LA Dodgers on Friday night in San Diego. We had a 7.5 game lead when he returned, so it will be interesting to see what happens to that lead now that he's back. He was obviously rusty and out of shape, plus it remains to be seen how well he'll fit in again with a team that played pretty without him.


An interesting quote from an anonymous contributor: "Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?"

And this, from Rodney Dangerfield: "Some dog I got. We call him Egypt because in every room he leaves a pyramid."

Another anonymous quote: "Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~