"Chondrodystrophy" may sound like the name of a disease, but the multisyllabic term refers to a specific body type. To preserve your chondrodystrophoid dog's enjoyable quality of life, it is important to understand the health risks of this physique and to learn what you can do to prevent debilitating injuries.
What Is Chondrodystrophy?
Chondrodystrophy is a genetic defect in cartilage development and in the growth of leg bones. Cartilage is the tough connective tissue that forms throughout the body's skeletal framework, including along the vertebral column. The result of chondrodystrophy is a dog with disproportionately short legs in comparison to the length of its body, and the legs often appear bowed or crooked. This condition is often referred to as dwarfism. The short-legged breed of dog that immediately comes to most people's minds is the dachshund because it is the most exaggerated example of the chondrodystrophoid form. Other chondrodystrophoid breeds include:
- Shih tzu
- Basset hound
- English bulldog
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Pembroke Welsh corgi
- Cardigan Welsh corgi
- Cocker spaniel
- Lhasa apso
While some of these breeds, such as the Welsh corgi, exhibit short legs, others, such as the beagle, have longer legs that present with angular deformities.
What Are the Risks of Chondrodystrophy?
One of the most common conditions to afflict chondrodystrophoid dogs is called intervertebral disc disease. Your dog's spinal column is made up of alternating vertebrae and discs. The discs act as cushions in between the vertebrae to protect the spinal cord that runs through the center of the column. In chondrodystrophoid dogs as young as three years of age, the discs begin to degenerate prematurely. Once the disc degenerates, it carries a high risk of slipping or rupturing, causing the spinal cord and other nerve roots to be compressed by the neighboring vertebrae. This condition is painful, debilitating and can result in paralysis if it is not treated immediately.
Due to their low-slung bodies that must be supported by short legs, chondrodystrophoid dogs are also at increased risk for sustaining back and neck injuries, including:
- Vertebral fractures and dislocations
- Sprained or strained muscles
How Can These Back Problems Be Prevented?
The key to protecting your chondrodystrophoid dog against the aforementioned back problems is to minimize the strain on the back and neck. Practice the following tips to reduce risks for injury.
- Prevent obesity by maintaining your dog's healthy weight.
- Attach your dog's leash to a harness instead of its collar.
- Do not teach your dog to sit up on its hind legs, and do not hold your dog's front legs up off of the ground to help it walk or dance on its hind legs.
- Do not allow your dog to jump on and off high furniture. If your dog revels in a nap on the couch or your bed, place steps so that the dog can walk up and down.
- Do not allow your dog to jump in and out of a vehicle.
- Limit your chondrodystrophoid dog's physical activity and playtime to walks on a leash and short play sessions. Refrain from tug of war games, do not encourage jumping to catch airborne balls and Frisbees, do not allow excessive running or roughhousing with other dogs, and opt out of agility courses.
- Do not allow your dog to walk or run on icy surfaces.
- Whenever your dog is left home alone, consider confining it to an area where it will not have the opportunity to go up or down a flight of stairs or jump onto elevated surfaces. For a smaller breed, such as a Pekingese or a dachshund, each step in a flight of stairs is nearly equal to the dog's height, which makes ascending and descending a challenge for those short legs.
- Do not allow younger children to pick up your chondrodystrophoid dog, and teach older children how to provide proper back support when they do so.
If your chondrodystrophoid dog sustains a back or neck injury, it is imperative to seek a veterinary evaluation and interventional treatment immediately. The sooner the injury is addressed, the better chance your dog will have for a complete recovery and for a reduced risk of recurrence in the future. If you're looking for a vet in your area, visit Apple Valley Animal Hospital.