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Joint Problems in Mastiffs

Recognized by the American Kennel Club Mastiff is one of the biggest dogs breed. Mastiffs love to hang around people and closely bond with their families. Mastiff is a combination of grandeur, good nature, courage and docility. This breed had been used as watchdogs for more than two thousand years in England and also took part in battles alongside soldiers in 55 B.C. This breed is more suitable to suburban life due to its size and need for space. It is popular among peasants in England to keep wolves and other predators from livestock.   

Mastiffs have a heavy boned powerful musculature and are slightly longer than tall. The body anatomy allows great strength along with endurance. The gait of these dogs shows power and strength that shows reach and drive. Its coat consists of two layers; a dense undercoat and a straight outer coat of short length. Short outer coat can be fawn or brindled.

Joint problems in Mastiffs

Joints of Mastiffs pay a toll to running and jumping. More use results in more injuries especially joint related problems ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears and Osteoarthritis. The problems related to joints of the breed are categorized in two that are as follows.

(i) Developmental Problems:-

In case of developmental problems joints do not develop correctly in a number of different ways. Common developmental problems include Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. Some of the other developmental joint problems are as follows.

Elbow dysplasia is due to several different conditions that results in abnormally formed or fused elbow joints. This causes lameness and pain. There are further three types of Elbow Dysplasia, which are as follows.

  • Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP): It is a form of elbow dysplasia that is caused due to the loss of agility in the fragments of joint. This condition is generally the most difficult to treat.
  • Osteochorondritis Dissecans (OCD): It is a defect caused due to overlaying of cartilage on to the joint or attaching to bone. OCD affects elbows, shoulders, hooks and stifles.
  • Uniunited Anconeal Process (UAP): Mastiffs being one of the giant breed of dogs have their Anconeal Process close later than the smaller breeds of dogs. The age of closure is normally one year however it might be older.

Hip Dysplasia: It is a painful condition caused by abnormally formed hips. Mastiffs become lame in the hind quarters. It is due to the pain associated with degeneration of hips.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy: It is a developmental disorder causing following conditions.

  •  Toes turning in or out
  • Roached top lines
  • Pinched rears
  • Pinched rears
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Pain in joints
  • Inability to stand or function

The problem arises due to intake of calories versus output of energy i.e. too many calories consumed or either due to disturbance of diet due to the overuse of supplements.

Panosteitis (Wandering lameness): It is a developmental disorder during growth period normally during six to sixteen months of age. The condition affects the long bones. Lameness can occur in one or all limbs. Being self limiting it disappears on its own.  The exact cause for it is yet unknown however some of the causes might include genetics, diet, stress, infections and metabolic problems.

(ii) Degenerative Problems:-

In case of degenerative problems there are several areas but most common cause of Arthritis is ACL problems that cause degeneration of ligaments over time resulting in instability and secondary Osteoarthritis. Other problems include Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), Spondylosis and Wobblers Syndrome and in detail are as follows.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Knees, along with external support of collateral leg, has two ligaments inside the joint. They help by preventing forward movement called Cruciate. Injury to ligaments causes them to rupture resulting in acute lameness of limb.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): It is a late degenerative progressive disease of spinal cord in old dogs. The symptoms are usually as follows.

  • Hind end weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dragging of rear feet

A DNA test is used for detection of DM.

Spondylosis: It is a degenerative disease causing excessive bone production of osteophytes along spinal vertebrae. This results in lameness. The advance cases results in fusion of vertebrae. Prominent expressions for disease in adults and older Mastiffs are generally as follows.

  • Lameness
  • Severe pain
  • Disabilities

Wobblers Syndrome or Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) is a condition caused due to pressure or pinching of Cervical Spinal Cord and nerves in neck region. This is due to ligament problem or vertebrae malformation. Compression of neck causes Mastiffs to stand and move abnormally. The disorder is considered to be genetic along with environmental influence. Major causes for disease are rapid growth and nutrition.

Symptoms of joint problems in Mastiffs:

Most of the time people notice that their dog is not that athletic anymore or is having difficulties in common activities. The dog has problems in simple activities like moving from couch, going upstairs or getting in back of the car. They don’t want to run as long with their owner or also don’t want to play long in park. Other symptoms expressing joint problems are as follows:

  • Overt lameness i.e. holding the limb up or holding it funny.
  • Change in moods like aggression and irritation
  • Lethargy
  • Severe pain in joints
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Dragging of rear feet
  • Fever
  • Inability to stand or function
  • Disturbance in diet
  • Moaning or groaning


Treatments for joint problems are divided into following types.

(i)  Surgical treatment:-

Surgical treatments include the arthroscopic cleaning of a joint all the way to total joint replacement.

(i)  Non operative treatment:-

Non surgical procedure includes weight management and improvement of body condition. The monitoring of dog’s weight is of importance when it comes to reduce stress on joints. Keeping the weight in check also reduces the affects of inflammation because fat causes inflammation in joints.

(i)  Medications:-

There are various types of food additives and medications. Drugs include anti-inflammatory, analgesics and pain relievers.

(ii) Therapy:-

Other than surgical procedures and treatments there are physical therapy programs; professional scientific base programs with aid of a rehabilitationist. Therapies include are as follows.

  • Underwater treadmills
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Electric stimulation