K9 Corner, April 18

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, April 18, 2017

By HELEN PALMER

There are so many things to consider when you are contemplating adding a new furry critter to your household family. First thing, why do you want an additional responsibility? Once that question is answered to your satisfaction, consider the species. If you narrowed your answers down to a dog, consider the size, temperament, coat quality and exercise requirements. Finally, as you look over the animals available, think about the soundness of the specific animal you are gravitating toward.

Now what do I mean by “soundness?” As many nationally known dog trainers state: soundness in a dog refers to the bone structure.

Hip dysplasia is known in nearly every breed. It involves the hip socket, which is shallow compared to a normal socket, allowing the femur to slide out, or the femoral head can be flattened causing the dislocation. It can be inherited and is diagnosed by X-rays. A dog may have a mild case of hip dysplasia that does not interfere with its ability to be a wonderful companion, or it may have a severe case which means surgery or euthanasia because of the pain and crippling condition.

Elbow joints should be inspected for malformation. This is especially important if the dog is expected to do any jumping (think competitive obedience). Landing on poorly formed joints will trigger arthritis and shorten the working life as well as the quality of life of the dog.

Checking on how the dog is “put together” means making sure the skeleton conforms to the breed standard. Fox terriers are supposed to have a “straight shoulder,” which refers to the angle of the shoulder blade. However, German shepherd dogs must have a “well-laid-back shoulder” in order to cover more ground with each stride and be able to maintain the pace for a long period, which herding cattle or sheep requires.

Knowing the breed standard is essential when evaluating your dog and if you have a less popular breed or a rare breed, your veterinarian would be grateful if you brought the standard with you to the examination. These standards can be found in a variety of books most of which are in the Boyle County library as well as on the internet under the specific breed name.

I have a book published many years ago titled “Medical and Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs.” It lists all the genetic and susceptible conditions by breed. It goes from Australian cattle dog with “none recognized,” to the bulldog with 32 conditions that need to be checked.  Some breeds list even more. Some problems do not show up until later in life, but it is helpful to know that your breed is prone to them.

The listed conditions range from as minor as “short tail” which is hardly life threatening, and would not keep the dog from enjoying obedience work, agility exercises or tracking to other conditions that are very severe. That is why it is important to evaluate your pup or dog for soundness when you get it.