Health Topics

Hips & Elbows
What is hip dysplasia?

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket type joint where the head of the femur (the thighbone) fits into the socket of the pelvis (the hip). Puppies with an inherited predisposition to develop hip dysplasia are born with normal hips, but as they grow, abnormal development of the skeleton and musculature means that the ball no longer fits correctly in the socket of the joint. This leads to an underlying problem of hip laxity, where the head of the femur easily becomes dislocated from the hip joint.

There are a number of risk factors that cause some dogs to develop hip dysplasia while other dogs have perfectly normal hips. Certain breeds inherit a genetic predisposition to develop malformed hips.

Environmental factors also play an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. Diet, growth rate, and exercise will modify the effects of the underlying genetic predisposition. Puppies that are fed high energy diets (e.g. diets high in fat), are over-exercised, or grow too fast are much more likely to suffer from hip problems.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

What is elbow dysplasia  (ED)?

The term elbow dysplasia is a general term that is used to describe a developmental degenerative disease of the elbow joint. Visit this site for an in depth discussion on ED:  Elbow Dysplasia.

This is a link to a directory of internet resources on hip and elbow dysplasia, provided by  Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Resources



Dogs are vulnerable to several diseases and possible injuries due to the structure of their eyes. Always keep watch for signs of discharge, squinting, cloudiness, irritation and redness, or swelling. If your dog starts to bump into furniture, this could be a sign of vision loss.

The most common canine eye problems usually stem from the following:

  • Cataracts - an opacity of the lens
  • Cherry Eye - the dog's third eyelid's tear gland protrudes outward
  • Conjunctivitis - an inflammation of the membrane that lines your dog's eyelids and the front of the sclera
  • Entropion - eyelids are turn inward which causes the eyelashes to scratch the cornea
  • Glaucoma - increased eye pressure caused by fluid buildup in the eye
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy - inherited vision-destroying diseases caused by deterioration of the retina's image-processing cells

This is by no means a complete list of possible eye diseases, but they seem to be the most common.

A dog's eyes may discharge for a variety of reasons. Allergies are often a major cause, as is irritation from dust or small specs of foriegn materials. Problems with tear ducks and drainage, bacteria and/or viruses may cause runny eyes, sometimes with a white or yellowish discharge.

One source of prevention and treatment is through natural, herbal and homeopathic eye washes. These natural medications are non-irritating, quite soothing and will promote natural healing of your dog's eye tissues. They are also good for removing foreign debris, clearing up the encrustation that sometimes builds up in the corner of the eyes, as well as opening tear ducts.

Be sure to always have your dog's eyes thoroughly checked at each annual veterinary visit or if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Catching possible dog eye problems before they become severe can help prevent future vision problems in your pet.

Rose Smith is the author and owner of Caring For Canines



Bloat is a very serious health risk for many dogs, yet many dog owners know very little about it.  According to the links below, it is the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer.  It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermans are particularly at risk.  This page provides links to information on bloat and summarizes some of the key points we found in the sites we researched.  Although we have summarized information we found about possible symptoms, causes, methods of prevention, and breeds at risk, we cannot attest to the accuracy.  Please consult with your veterinarian for medical information.

Splenic Torsion

With this condition, the spleen rotates around its own axis, either away from or towards the stomach. The spleen then becomes engorged with blood and may expand to several times its normal size. If the spleen rotates away from the stomach it may torsion several times. As many as six revolutions have been observed. If the spleen rotates towards the stomach it may pull it along causing a partial or even complete gastric torsion, creating a very dangerous and potentially fatal situation calling for instant medical attention. Unless the stomach is involved and obvious signs of GDV are present, unfortunately the signs of splenic torsion are often quite vague and may vary from case to case. Signs may include: - Inappetence - Vomiting - Diarrhea or constipation - Low level fever - General listlessness - Tucked up abdomen, tenderness of the abdomen or slight abdominal distention - Pale gums Splenic torsion is a life-threatening condition which requires immediate veterinary care. In a surgical procedure called splenectomy, the spleen is removed. Often, a gastropexy (stomach tack) is performed at the same time if the animal's conditions allows this additional procedure. The causes of splenic torsion are not known. Like with GDV, the condition seems to primarily affect large deep-chested breeds. In Swissys, dogs over the age of 5 years appear to have a higher incidence, however, quite a few cases of younger Swissys have been reported. As with GDV, the most important tool to prevent a fatal ending to splenic torsion is to recognize the signs and get immediate veterinary care. Remember, splenic torsion will kill if not recognized in time to perform life-saving surgery.


Canine thyroid disease can be tough to diagnose. The symptoms can be legion and sometimes contradictory: lethargy, mental lassitude, weight gain, dull coat, skin infections, constipation, diarrhea, cold intolerance, skin odor, hair loss, greasy skin, dry skin, reproductive problems, aggression, and more.

The associated diseases or conditions can be serious: megaesophagus, ruptured knee ligaments, testicular atrophy, cardiomyopathy, excessive bleeding, and corneal ulcers.

The disease can be inherited or of unknown or uncertain origin. The diagnosis can be complex; the treatment as simple as supplementing a basic essential hormone.

This is the description of canine hypothyroidism, the absence of sufficient thyroid hormone to maintain healthy body functions.

There can be a connection between hypothyroidism and seizures.

Canine Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Canine Hypotyroidism - FAQ

OFA Info on Thyroid Testing & Submission


Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant tumor of blood vessel cells. With the exception of the skin form (which can often be eliminated by surgery), a diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma is bad news. This tumor is associated with serious internal bleeding and rapid internal spread. Fortunately, it is not a completely without therapy options and, as long as expectations are realistic, temporary remissions are possible.

Hemangiosarcoma can theoretically arise from any tissue where there are blood vessels (which amounts to anywhere in the body) but there are three classical locations which account for most presentations:


The skin form of hemangiosarcoma are the best types to have as they are the most easily removed surgically (and thus have the greatest potential for complete cure).

The skin forms of hemangiosarcoma are classified as either “dermal” and “subcutaneous” (also called “Hypodermal.”)  The true skin form looks like a rosy red or even black growth on the skin. This form is associated with sun exposure and thus tends to form on non-haired or sparsely haired skin (such as on the abdomen) or on areas with white fur.  Dogs with short white haired fur (such as Dalmatians and pit bull terriers) are predisposed to the development of this tumor.  Approximately 1/3 of cases will spread internally in the malignant way we usually associate with cancer so it is important to remove such growths promptly.


  • The biopsy report will indicate whether or not the growth was “completely excised.”  If the tissue completely surrounding the growth is normal, this indicates that the growth has been removed completely and that it should not grow back.

If one wants to be absolutely positive that no tumor spread has yet occurred, the following non-invasive (but not inexpensive) testing is necessary.

  • Chest radiographs – hemangiosarcoma  tends to spread to the lungs. Advanced tumor spread can be picked up with this simple test. (Spots of tumor spread must be 3cm in diameter to be large enough to be visible on a radiograph.)
  • Ultrasound of the belly – specifically the spleen. Even a small splenic hemangiosarcoma should be detectable with ultrasound.
  • Ultrasound of the heart – even a small heart-based hemangiosarcoma should be detectable with ultrasound.


The overlying skin is often totally normal on top of a subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma and often the surgeon is surprised to find a dark red blood growth under the skin when the tumor is removed.

Since up to 60% of hypodermal hemangiosarcomas spread internally the above three tests to rule out tumor spread are more important.

  • If no sign of tumor spread is found after chest radiographs have been taken and ultrasound of the heart and belly are clear, prognosis is substantially better than if secondary tumor is found; however, additional treatment with chemotherapy is recommended if cure is the goal.
  • Surgery alone has been associated with a 172 day (approximately 6 months) median survival time.


The spleen is a fairly deep-seated abdominal organ which tends to go unnoticed unless it develops a growth of unusual enlargement. Splenic growths have the unfortunate tendency to break open and bleed profusely regardless of whether they are benign or malignant. While a splenectomy (removal of the spleen certainly ends the prospect of this type of life-threatening sudden bleed, splenic hemangiosarcoma is still a rapidly spreading malignancy.

When a splenic mass is detected, it may not be possible to tell prior to splenectomy whether or not the mass is malignant or not (though certainly basic testing is performed in an attempt to determine this.)


Please review the Splenectomy Page which reviews the details
of splenic mass evaluation.  (Chemotherapy after removal of the
splenic hemangiosarcoma is reviewed here so be sure to click the hemangiosarcoma link on the splenectomy page when
you are ready to return for more information.)

  • 25% of dogs with splenic Hemangiosarcoma also have a heart-based Hemangiosarcoma.
  • Survival time with surgery alone is 19-65 days for splenic hemangiosarcoma.


Like the splenic hemangiosarcoma,  the heart-based hemangiosarcoma tends to exert its life-threatening effects by bleeding.

The heart is enclosed in a sac called the “pericardium.” When the hemangiosarcoma bleeds, the blood fills up the pericardium until it is so full that the heart inside is under so much pressure that it has no room to fill with the blood it has to pump.

On chest radiographs the heart is “globoid” (spherical). In fact, the actual heart is of normal shape but all that can be seen on the radiograph is the large round heart shadow of the pericardium filled to capacity with blood.  Ultrasound is needed  to truly see the effusion.

This condition, if allowed to progress, results in an emergency circulating collapse called a “pericardial tamponade” and can only be relieved by tapping the pericardium with a needle and withdrawing the excess fluid.

  • 63% of heart-based Hemangiosarcomas have evidence of tumor spread at the time of their discovery.
  • Survival time for surgery alone (removing the pericardium and snipping off the heart-based hemangiosarcoma) is approximately 4 months.

Chemotherapy is necessary to create a substantial improvement in survival time.  The most current protocol involves injectable Adriamycin (Doxorubicin) every 3 weeks and oral cyclophosphamide at home for 3 days out of the week.









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