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Hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Species: Dog
Breed: Mix - German Shepard
Age: 11-15 years
My dog Jasmine is about 13 & 1/2 years old. We live in New York City. I believe her father was pure German Sheppard & mother mixed pit & sheppard. About a year ago I noticed that she was having trouble getting up from sitting and lying down. Our vet said it was arthritis and prescribed Cosequin and then Adroitin-M chewable tabs daily and Metacam oral solution as needed. That worked fine for a while, but now recently I'm finding that she is having more trouble getting up; she tends to sometimes hop up on to a step or curb; when she walks it looks like her hind quarters are low (as if she can't pick her back legs up as well as she used to); and it seems hard for her to hold her bowel movements - so when she has to "go" she often will just do it where ever she is, as opposed to finding an "appropriate" spot like she used to. (The BM itself is normal looking)
So, now I'm wondering if there something more serious going on, or is the arthritis just getting worse, or does she have Hip Dysplasia?
Having said all of that, you should know that her demeanor is normal. She is still playful, she can run short distances and she eats her normal diet. Although she has gained about 7-8 lbs & then lost about 2.5 to 3 lbs over the last 2 years (now she is apprx. 5 lbs. overweight & we are working on that)
What can we do about this? Unfortunately due to the economic recession I am unemployed now & my husband is only working part time - money is tight. So, although we love Jasmine we can't afford any kind of surgery right now. Are there any low cost treatments that we can use?

Thank you,

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Sheba...thanks for your question!

I'm sorry to hear about Jasmine's situation. While this could be caused by the arthritis getting worse I am concerned that she may have a condition called Degenerative Myelopathy. This is usually seen in Shepherds and Shepherd mix dogs. It causes problems with nerves starting in the back of the body (hind legs, anus, etc) and slowly moves forward.

If this is degenerative myelopathy the good news is that it is not painful. However, the bad news is that there is no cure or treatment for it.

You can read more about it by copying this link into your browser:

Regarding your question about hip dysplasia, hip dysplasia is basically severe arthritis in the hips. It is definitely possible that this is what is going on. The drugs that she is currently on are very good for any type of arthritis. The one change I would make is to give the Metacam daily rather than as needed. Even if you just give a half dose daily this can help.

There are other drugs that can be added on to this regime such as Tramadol but they can be expensive.

Some dogs with hip issues will benefit from swimming which helps the joints.

You can also talk to your vet about something called either Cartrophen or Adequan which is an injection that is given weekly for 4 weeks and then monthly after that. It often helps with sore joints. In my clinic it costs around $30 per injection.

However, if this is degenerative myelopathy there may not be much that can be done. There is no test for this condition.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have more concerns.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,
Thank you very much for your reply. But how can I find out what she has if there is no test for Degenerative Myelopathy. Are there any other signs to look for? Do we just keep her on the current reatment anyway? Is this desease fatal or just uncomfortable?
And, this Cartrophen or Adequan injection you mentioned, is that a cartilage replacement or what is it? Would she have to get it for the rest of her life? Or how long does it last?

Also, would loosing weight help her?

Any suggestions for that?

I feed her Iams weight control dry (1cup) + 1 cup peas & carrots + 1/2 Iams can food. Mixed together once a day. She gets walked twice a day.
I don't know what else to do, but its very hard to get her to loose weight.

I'm sorry if I seem frantic, just very worried about my baby.

Thank you again,

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

No need to be sorry! I can tell that you are really concerned for your girl!

While there is not distinct test for Degenerative Myelopathy, the way we usually diagnose a dog with it is to look for neurological symptoms. If your vet was to examine her they would try to knuckle her back paws to see if she places them back again. If not, this is a sign that her symptoms are neurological (i.e. more likely to be DM than arthritis).

Does she scuff her back toes when she is walking at all? If so, this is a sign that she could have DM.

DM is not really painful at all, it is just awkward for the dog. However, it usually results in paralysis. It can take many months for a dog to get to this point though.

If your dog is only about 5 lbs overweight I would not be too concerned about weight loss. It sounds like what you are feeding her is good.

Let me know if you have more concerns!
Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,

Thank you very much again. :)

But I don't know what knuckle her back paws means. Do you mean to press on her back paws with your knucles to see if she feels it? or what?
And I think she does scuff the tops of her back toe nails when she walks in the street. I try to keep her nails cut because of this.

P.S. The information you give is invaluable.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome. It is my pleasure to help people and pets in need!

By knuckling, this is what I mean: Stand her up on all four legs and stand behind her. Put a hand under her belly to help support her weight. Then, take a back paw and try to place it so that her toes are knuckled over (i.e. all of her weight is on her toes). A neurologically normal dog will immediately place the foot back. A dog with neurological issues (such as DM) may keep it in this position. However, it is sometimes hard to do this test if you haven't done it before.

I hope things go ok with her!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,

Thank you once again.

I will check out the link you mentioned and I'll try to do that test myself. If I can't do it right then I'll take her to the vet.

What ever she has, I just hope it doesn't get worse any time soon.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome! I pray she does well!
Dr. Marie.
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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.