Musculoskeletal Disorders in Dogs

The musculoskeletal system consists of the muscle and skeleton working together to form support for joints, and musculoskeletal disorders in dogs generally refers to bone and joint problems.

These disorders can be genetic, the result of injury, or as part of the ageing process, and they are more commonly seen in large and active breeds. There are many and varied musculoskeletal disorders, but we’ll focus on the most common ones for this article, and what you can do to help.



Arthritis is usually thought of as a disorder of older dogs, and indeed osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints starts to degenerate, often from age and overuse. However, hypertrophic arthritis can occur in younger large breed dogs and is often referred to as growing pains. Treatment usually consists of ant-inflammatory medication and pain killers, and joint support.


Anterior Cruciate Ligament Disorders

The cruciate ligament supports the knee in the dog’s hind legs and can be injured, as it often happens with large working dogs, or it can degenerate over time. Partial tears can heal with rest, but more extensive damage needs surgery to repair and stabilise the joint.

Dogs with cruciate ligament disorders will often have swelling and pain around the affected joint, and it’s important to ensure they rest and see their vet to prevent further damage.


Patellar Luxation

Often called knee dysplasia, patellar luxation is where the kneecap slips out of place repeatedly and can cause further damage to the joint over time if not treated. The dog may develop a strange skipping gait, and treatment is not always effective. Surgery is only performed for severe cases.


Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Hip or elbow dysplasia are often seen in large dogs that grow too fast due to an inappropriate diet, or from excessive exercise that damages the joints and causes them to develop incorrectly. Hip dysplasia is genetic in many large breeds and can present in young dogs or not be seen until the dog is much older.

Depending on the severity of the condition, medication and pain killers can be prescribed, or surgery in the worst cases.



Another disorder caused by rapid growth in large dogs, osteochondrosis affects the shoulder, elbow and knee joints and often affects pups less than a year old. This painful condition occurs when the smooth cartilage in the joints is inflamed and small pieces break off and float around, causing more inflammation and swelling.

Mild cases can heal with plenty of rest, but more severe cases will need surgery.


Veterinary Hospital Port Kennedy

Your pet’s health and comfort are our top priority, so if your dog shows signs of any musculoskeletal disorders, bring them in to the vet clinic at Port Kennedy Vets for assessment and early treatment.

Call 08 9524 6644 or contact us online for any enquiries or health concerns regarding your pet.