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Joint Problems in Saint Bernards

The Saint Bernard is a popular, giant, strong, powerful and muscular dog. Tales of alapine rescues are source of its fame. It has either long hair or short hair of yellowish brown color with white patches. Its head is massive. Tail is long, heavy and broad. This breed is gentle, polite, slow moving, patient, obedient, eager, friendly, intelligent and easy to train. It is blessed with a highly developed sense of smell and can detect danger with its sixth sense. Adult Saint Bernard needs regular exercise for good mental and physical condition. Its approximate height is 70-90cm, weight is 120-200 lb and life expectancy is 8-10 years. St. Bernard was founded in 980 A.D from Swiss Alps. Its original function was hunt, herd, rescue, search and watch but now a days it is used only as a companion.

Joint issues in saint Bernards:-

Saint Bernard’s large and heavy size is a major source of strain for its heart, bones and joints. Major health issues are:

  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Panosteitis
  • Osteochondrosis
  • wobblers syndrome
  • some eye problems
  • Heart problems

Here we will discuss only joint related problems.

A place where bones unite is a joint. Ends of bone are covered with thick, protective material called as cartilage, and space between bones is filled with oily fluid material to provide lubrication.

Caine Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is abnormal growth of hip joint. In this disease, hip joint (joint between femur and hip bone) becomes lax and can allow the head of femur to slip in and out of the hip bone. This laxity can damage cartilage and soft tissues leading to pain and disability.

Elbow Dysplasia

This disease occurs when the cartilage or other the structures in the elbow joint develops abnormally. It is a multi-factorial, genetic disease, very common in St. Bernards.


It is a defect in the formation of growing cartilage that causes it to fragment.


Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer, most often seen in long bones of the limbs of St. Bernard.

Wobbler Syndrome:-

It is instability of the neck vertebrae. It is characterized by compression of spinal cord at the level of neck leading to neck pain.

It is a disease of bone cells; known as osteoblasts causing inflammation of bones.



Like humans, dogs inherit some diseases from the parents. Heredity predisposition is a common cause of osteochondrosis, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.


Balanced diet is very important for good health of dogs. Joint diseases can occur either due to excess or deficiency of dietary components. Excess protein and calorie is a possible cause of dysplasia and Wobbler syndrome. Diet lacking in calcium can lead to weak bones and painful joints.

Wight Gain:-

Weight gain is a continuous source of stress to joints, leading to their early deterioration.


Trauma reduces production of synovial fluid and increases friction in joints. Overextension or improper handling of puppies can displace joint.


Causes of some joint disorders are not known, e.g. panosteitis.

Autoimmune Diseases:-

Some diseases produce chemicals or toxins which attack body’s own joints.

Signs And Symptoms:-

  • Atypical gait
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty in sitting and rising
  • Pain
  • Soreness
  • Weakness
  • Disinclination to walk
  • Muscle wasting
  • Mood swings
  • Stiffness


Musculoskeletal Examination:-

Complete musculoskeletal system examination helps in detecting tenderness and power of muscles and joints.


  • X-RAY:- X-Rays tell us about bony disorders.
  • CT-SCAN and MRI: – These are more accurate tests and give more detail about the lesion as compare to x-ray.
  • BIOPSY: – Biopsy is removal of tissues from the site of lesion using specific needle or syringe. It is a definite test for osteosarcoma and panosteitis.

Blood profile can also be helpful.


Non-Medical Management

PHYSIOTHERAPY: - Moderate, regular exercise helps to restore pain free movements.

WEIGHT LOSS: - In case of low body weight, there is less load on the joints so there is less pain.

MEDICATION:- The use of medication varies according to age, severity and symptoms. Always use medications after the recommendation of your vet.

PAINKILLERS: - These drugs relieve pain and discomfort.

ANTI INFLAMMATORY DRUGS: - As inflammation is associated with many joint problems, it is necessary to nip the evil in its bud. NSAIDS are commonly used for this purpose. Steroids are also efficient anti inflammatory drugs. Cortisone, mostly used steroid, can be given orally, parenterally or directly placed into joint.

NARCOTICS: - These analgesics are rarely used and are not so effective.

CHEMOTHERAPY: – Chemotherapeutic agents (cancer treating medicines) like Methotrexate and leucovorin are helpful in treating osteosarcoma.

Dietary Supplements:-

These supplements add raw material to body that increases repair rate. Commonly used neutraceuticals are chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine. Vitamins are also helpful.

Surgical Procedures:-

SALVAGE SURGERIES:- In these surgeries we reshape the joint to reduce pain. It is of great value in hip dysplasia.

CORRECTIVE SURGERIES: - In these surgeries correction of abnormality is done completely. It includes replacement procedures. It is beneficial in hip and elbow dysplasia.

NUERO SURGERIES: - Nuero surgeries help to treat wobbler syndrome. These are of many kinds.

AMPUTATION: - In osteosarcoma amputation of the affected limb is the standard treatment.