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Intelligent, affectionate, and excellent cuddlers, American Pitbull Terriers are great family dogs. Both red nose and blue nose pitbulls are people-oriented companions that pack a lot of muscle in a medium-sized frame, from their big boxy heads down to their wiggly bottoms.
Unfortunately, there are several hip and hind leg health concerns specific to the pitbull breed that can slow them down and cause discomfort. Pitbulls are prone to hip dysplasia and knee problems, such as torn ACLs/CCLs. Many have hind leg issues due to genetics, environmental factors, or a combination of the two. Luckily, there are many treatment options available so your pitbull can live a happy and healthy life.
Let’s take a look at some of the causes and symptoms of common pitbull hip and back leg problems and a variety of treatments. As with any canine medical condition, please consult your veterinarian about any changes to your pitbull’s health.
A chronic dog skeletal condition, canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a malformation of the ball and joint socket of one or both hips where the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit precisely into the hip socket. Instead of sliding smoothly and creating fluid motion, this “loose” hip rubs on the socket, resulting in painful bone spurs that can cause pain in the hip joint, lameness, or even degenerative joint disease.
Because of the way weight is distributed on the hip joint, pitbulls, bulldogs, retrievers, Great Danes, Old English Sheepdogs, Saint Bernards, Rottweilers, boxers, and German shepherds are just a few breeds affected by CHD at a higher rate. If you know that your pitbull has a genetic predisposition to hip and joint issues, it’s important to watch for warning signs.
If you answered yes on any of these questions, your pitbull may be showing early signs of dog hip dysplasia. Although there is no cure, early detection improves the success rate of treatment as this lifelong disease will likely worsen over time. Your veterinarian can diagnose this disease after a complete physical exam with X-rays of the hips and pelvis.
Today, there are many ways to manage your pitbull’s hip dysplasia.
Surgery is one option. In addition to being invasive, however, canine hip dysplasia surgery can be costly, beginning at $1,700. It can also be risky if your dog is older or has other health conditions that may complicate it. Post-surgical rehabilitation can be long and grueling.
Non-invasive treatments include hydrotherapy, massage therapy, red light and/or cold laser therapy, acupuncture, canine chiropractic, and supplements (fish oil, turmeric, glucosamine). A dog hip brace can also help reduce your pitbull’s hip pain. Ortho Dog’s Hip Hound brace is designed for dogs who suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, decreased endurance during activity, hip pain, low back pain, or weakness and back leg limping.
Keeping your dog at an ideal weight can help lessen the discomfort on their joints.
Pitbulls love being playful! Sometimes running at top speeds or catching a ball can lead to a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), the canine equivalent of a human ACL. The CCL is a thin connective tissue in the middle of a dog’s knee that connects the femur (bone above the knee) to the tibia (bone below the knee). The CCL is always load-bearing, which can make the ligament susceptible to injury—especially when it comes to a muscular pitbull.
Injury, however, is not the only way your pitbull can have ACL problems. Regular wear and tear on the knee, loss of muscle strength in their hind legs, and abnormal bends at the knee joint can also put your pitbull at risk of developing a CCL tear. Most partial tears become complete tears due to continued physical activities.
After a licensed veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a CCL tear, they may decide that surgery is the best option. Many dogs, however, are able to recover from an ACL tear without invasive surgery. We recently covered it on the blog.
When it comes to non-invasive ACL/CCL treatment options, your pitbull may find relief through acupuncture, massage therapy, supplements, red light and/or cold laser therapy, canine chiropractic, and water therapy. The success of any treatment option depends on the age, health, and activity level of the dog. Ortho Dog’s cruciate care knee brace for torn ACLs and other injuries can stabilize the knee to reduce pain and inflammation during healing.
In 60% of cases, a dog with a torn ACL will later injure the other knee. We hope that by stabilizing the injured knee with a dog knee brace (as well as balancing the back and hip areas), further injury can be avoided. Bracing the injured knee will take pressure off the other leg, hopefully avoiding injury to that leg.
Whether your pitbull is suffering from an acute injury or a chronic, lifelong disease, we hope that you can find the treatment option(s) that work best. There are many conservative management techniques to try out. We hope your pitbull can get back to his fun-loving self in no time!