Musculoskeletal problems

Continued from last week

Last week, we spoke about the nutritional effects on the bone structure and formation. Perhaps it is apt at this point to relate the symptoms that these specific nutritional deficiencies, relative especially to calcium and phosphorus (and other mineral and trace elements, vitamins, etc), would produce.

In puppies and young dogs, the signs of skeletal problems are lameness, thriftlessness, bone pain, stunted growth and spontaneous fractures. I should mention that sometimes stress on the bones of puppies and young dogs do not result in a breakage. Instead, the bones (especially the long bones) actually bend or crack. As a vet, I find this condition more difficult to deal with. Straightening a bent bone or one that has sustained a crack because of a nutritional deficiency is much more complicated. Of course, the accompanying therapeutic steps must be associated with improving the nutritional balance.

In older dogs, periodontal disease usually is the first sign of mineral deficiencies. It is due to thinning of the jaw bones followed by exposure of the roots of the teeth. The teeth loosen and are expelled. The animals therefore, have difficulty with the food intake.
When unchecked, the condition eventually leads to the death of the dog.

Treatment
In puppies, the initial step is to correct the diet by feeding a good quality, balanced commercial ration. Be sure to choose the ‘Puppy Chow‘ which advertises as supporting normal puppy growth.

In older dogs, calcium carbonate should be supplemented when, due to advanced periodontal disease or fixed eating habits, the dog will not consume adequate amounts of a balanced commercial ration. But be careful; excess calcium should be avoided. Overdosing may make the dog worse. Veterinary supervision is necessary, even compulsory.

Vitamins A and D (and trace minerals) should be added to meet normal requirements – again, under veterinary advice and control.

A quizzical look from this male dog at the GSPCA as he waits for some kind person to adopt him (He has been neutered.)

Rickets (Osteomalacia)
Rickets (called Osteomalacia in the adult) has to do with a deficiency of Vitamin D. Since this vitamin is active in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the intestine, these minerals may be deficient also. This disease in Guyana’s dogs is not rare. Many cases classified as rickets could really be due to nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (see The Pet Corner April 8, 2012).

Signs
There is characteristic enlargement of the joints where the ribs meet the cartilages of the breastbone (rickettic rosary). Bowing of the legs and other growth deformities in the puppy, along with fractures in the adult, are common in severe cases. Of course, if one wants to be doubly sure, an X-ray of the leg would easily support the diagnosis, since the demineralization of the bone shows up clearly on the X-ray picture. In addition, the vet can take a blood sample and check the calcium and phosphorous levels.

Treatment
It is the same as for nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (see above).

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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