My husband and I just adopted little Diesel, a Pit Bull mix, from the pound. He’s only 3 months old, and he was in the pound for five weeks before we adopted him. He was held in the quarantine area (he had kennel cough at intake but is fine now), so I don’t think he was walked or exercised much during the five-week period.
We also have a 2-year-old Pit Bull mix who is very playful, and the two dogs are having a lot of fun playing constantly with one another. However, we’re noticing that by the end of the day, Diesel starts to favor his back end a bit, one leg in particular, and we’re worried he’s having discomfort.
I’m thinking that since he’s so young and was confined for so long, perhaps the muscles in his hind legs are underdeveloped for his age? Does this sound like it could be what’s going on? If so, is there anything in particular we should be doing or feeding him to encourage muscle growth in his hindquarters, or at least make sure he doesn’t injure himself?
–Martha, Lakewood, CA
Congratulations on your new puppy! Young puppies are usually pretty resilient and are also very rambunctious, so it is possible this is just a case of playing too rough. However, there are a few developmental problems that can cause pain or discomfort that you will want to have your veterinarian rule out. The first is hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the ball and socket joint in the hip does not fit together well. This results in a laxity of the joint where the ball is banging around in the socket rather than gliding back and forth smoothly. This banging around causes discomfort in a puppy’s joints as he is developing, and in older dogs severe arthritic changes set in, but this is not usually painful for the young adult dog.
Next is OCD (osteochondrosis dessicans), which is a defect in cartilage development. A flap of cartilage forms along the joint surface, which causes discomfort when the dog is bearing weight on the joint. Sometimes this flap can break loose and act as a foreign object in the joint space, intermittently causing pain.
Finally, panosteitis is a possibility, which is a condition where the long bones become inflamed and painful. The cause for this condition is unknown, but it occurs in young, growing large and giant breed dogs and is often seen as a shifting leg lameness.
Check with your local veterinarian to have Diesel examined and consider having radiographs taken of the affected leg (as well as the other leg for comparison). If no developmental disorder is found and it is determined that this is due to stress or strain from playing roughly, you may want to limit the rough playing until he has a chance to develop a little more.
Make sure he is eating a high-quality puppy food and supplement his diet with joint supplements (such as glucosamine and chondroitin) and omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure there is plenty of protein in his diet to help him develop strong muscles. Also, do exercises that help him develop the muscles in his rear legs, such as doing sits to stands, having him sit pretty or stand up on the rear legs to get a treat, climbing up stairs, and tugging on toys while you provide resistance.
PHOTO: i Love Dogs