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How to protect the joints of the growing dog

02 April 2022
9 mins read
Volume 13 · Issue 3
Figure 1. Highly concussive exercise such as ball chasing should be avoided until growth plate closure.


A number of genetic and environmental factors are involved in the development of orthopaedic diseases that affect the growing dog. While genetic factors cannot be influenced once the parents have been bred, environmental factors can be managed in order to reduce the risk of prevalence of these conditions. Research suggests the main environmental factors that may impact the growing dog's joints include nutrition, exercise, home environment, age of neutering and body condition. This article addresses each of these factors to allow veterinary staff to best advise owners on how to protect the joints of the growing dog.

The prevalence of the commonly occurring developmental joint diseases that affect the growing canine, including hip and elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis dissecans, is thought to be affected by environmental factors as well as genetic ones. There has been a marked effort to reduce the incidence of these conditions through selection of parents that are thought to be less likely to breed affected offspring, through schemes such as the kennel club hip and elbow schemes. As these developmental conditions are most often polygenic traits with variable heritance demonstrated between different breeds (Leppanen et al, 2000), the incidence remains high in some breeds despite the introduction of these schemes.

Alongside this effort to reduce the number of affected individuals, there has also been a marked effort by the veterinary community to provide client education on the environmental factors that are also thought to be influential. These factors may include:

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