Definition: Syndrome usually seen in large breeds characterized by cervical ventebral malformation or malarticulation.

Cause: Unknown, excess dietary calcium, genetic factors, rapid growth, trauma.

Signs: Usually young large breeds but can be seen at any age. Males more common than females. Usually insidious onset of rear leg weakness and incoordination that gradually worses. May be acute and painful in onset, particularly if associated with disc rupture. Weakness and incoordination can be seen in front legs as well and there may be demonstrable neck pain.

Diagnosis: Signalment, history, clinical signs, xrays - often need myelography in flexed and extended positions.

Therapy: Rest and antiflamatory medication initially, surgery if medication is unsuccessful in alleviating sypmtoms.


Definition: Condition characterized by arthritis and caudaequina compression secondary to lumbrosacral malformation (transitional vertebra) or malarticulation (step lesions).

Cause: Unknown, congenital, developmental, genetic, trauma, degenerative.

Signs: Usually large breeds in middle to advanced age, difficulty rising, pain on pressure over lumbrosacral junction, on raising tail or on extending both rear legs simultaneously, rear leg lameness or weakness, hypersensitive with self trauma, urinary or fecal incontinence, straining to defecate (tenesmus), decreased propriorproception in rear legs, we see a large numbaer of affected bloodhounds.

Diagnosis: Signalment, history clinical signs, xrays may need transosseous vertebral sinum venography, good idea to do a lateral xray of the L/S junction at the time OFA films are taken.

Therapy: Rest and inti-inflamatory and analegisic medication, dorsal decompressive surgery with foramenotomy and stabilization.


Definition: Condition characterized by coxial (Hip) joint instability with slight subluxation to complete luxation (dislocation) of the femoral head form the acetabulum resulting in degenerative joint disease and associated with osteoarthritus.

Cause: Multifactorial, polygenetic -0.25%-0.5% heritable in German Shepherd, nutrition, rapid growth, pelvic muscle mass - larger better, synovial fluid increase, myofiber hypotrophy in pectineus muscle.

Signs: Onset from 5 months to several years of age, difficulty rising, pain on abduction of rear limps, limited range of motion, palpable coxal joing laxity - ortoloni sign, weight bearing lameness without neurologic feficits, rear leg muscle atrophy and foreleg muscle hypertrophy due to weight shift.

Diagnosis: Signalment, history, clinical signs, xrays.

Therapy: Rest, limited exercise, anti-inflamatory and analgesic medication, multiple surgeries depending on age, severity of signs and degree of osteoarthritis.

Prevention: Although xrays and breeding to dysplasia free individuals will not completely eliminate the condition, it is the single most effective measure you can employ, good nutrition and proper exercise (to increase hip muscle mass) are also important.


Most of the conditions discussed have genetic implications therefore we must be willing to make difficult decisions to improve our individual lines and the breed in general.

We must not accept eye problems, hip dysplasia, bloat, and short lives as normal. It is not normal and with persistant effort problems can be reduced if not eliminated.

We must follow our puppies, keep good records and learn from our mistakes both individually and as a club.

Our dogs should not die without an effort to arrive at a diagnosis. Even if this means lab work, postmortem exams, and histopathology on dead animals.

We must consider the desirability of each breeding carefully. There are too many dogs born each year and certainly too many mediocre ones. We must learn the pedigrees of the dogs we are considering and ask questions not only of the owner but of other people knowledgeable about the line.

Most importantly, we must be open and honest about the problems in our own dogs with ourselves and with other breeders and prospective owners.

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