Hip Dysplasia more likely than Spinal Disease

Question:
Our German shepherd who is 5 years old suddenly jumped down from her (our!) easy chair and fell in a heap! Her legs seemed stiff and she was in pain. She was scared till she got up and wanted to go outdoors. Next day she was chasing around like normal. Last night she came in and collapsed in a heap on the floor! After a few minutes she gradually got up and wanted outdoors again and walked fine. Could this be a spinal problem?

Dr. Nichol:
I’m glad to hear that your girl gets up, dusts herself off, and gets back in the game each time she crashes but she’s in serious pain when it happens. Herniation or infection of a spinal disc is a possibility but repeated, quick recoveries make this unlikely. I am more concerned about a trouble with her hips.

This ball and socket joint is normally quite stable, allowing the rear limbs a full range of pain-free motion. But with a big dog who loses control of her hind legs, especially when jumping or walking on a hard, slick surface, hip dysplasia may be the issue. When a rear paw loses its grip the misshapen ball on the upper end of the thigh bone slips part way out of its socket. A stab of hip pain quickly derails her ability to support weight and she collapses. It’s no wonder your German shepherd feels sore when you find her.

A thorough physical exam, to include range of joint motion, neurologic function, and pain detection, is certainly in order. Some dogs have problems in more than one area. Your girl’s back, hips, and knees should be carefully palpated and x-rayed.

There are excellent ways of making a difference. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications could help your shepherd feel better in the short term but her joints need stability and improved function. A 5 year old dog could be a very good candidate for hip replacement surgery. The board certified surgeons at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center are as qualified and skilled as any I have known. They’ll make a thorough diagnosis and explain your options. Go for the gold. Your big girl deserves 7-9 more good years.