We are exceptionally pleased to welcome the newest addition to our staff: John Riboni’s daughter, Lauren Riboni. Lauren joins us as our new trainer at GSW, specializing in pet and obedience training both in-home and on-site at our facility.
Lauren is a veteran handler of working dogs, following in her dad’s footsteps since childhood. She has spent her entire life around dogs, and has helped with nearly every part of our operation, from basic care for our working dogs to training, home placement, and even breeding, whelping, and puppy-raising. From the time she could walk, Lauren often spent more time in the whelping box with the puppies than the dam of the litter!
Lauren has inherited her dad’s excellent instincts, and she demonstrates a very natural feel for and read of dogs. Additionally, communication with dogs and their handlers comes easily; Lauren connects very well with both the dog and the handler, with a natural sense for how to best approach the training for each particular team. It quickly becomes evident that dogs and people alike adore Lauren and respond positively to her one-on-one instruction.
Lauren has been certified as a dog trainer through Dogworx Academy in Austin, Texas, where she apprenticed with the world-renown team of Rob Dunn and Jessy Gabriel. Both Rob and Jessy are highly accomplished trainers who themselves have trained, handled, and competed with their dogs at national and international events. During her time at Dogworx, Lauren performed not only pet dog training and evaluations, but Noseworks, narcotics detection, basic Schutzhund, and service dog training.
We are pleased to offer a variety of training services utilizing Lauren as our primary trainer, including private lessons, board-and-train, puppy training and socialization, advanced obedience, and pet training for all breeds of dogs. We customize the training program to your dog and to your goals for your companion, and focus on bringing out the spirit and personality of your dog while helping them become well-mannered and obedient. Rather than insisting on one particular training philosophy, we adapt our training methods to each particular dog, working with their personality, temperament, training issues, and motivations.
For more information on our training services, please contact us.
Imagine this scenario: a dog is being pet by neighborhood children. He suddenly walks away, and climbs onto the front porch into his bed. The children want to follow the dog onto the porch to keep petting him; this means they would get into his space, be on his property, and also prevent him from escaping a situation he finds uncomfortable. The handler is left with two choices: to either listen to the clear communication that the dog has offered, and thus take action to keep the dog (and children) safe, or to ignore it and assume “oh, he’ll be fine.”
The foolish handler practices the latter, placing both the dog and children at risk should the dog decide to act out after being followed and cornered. The wise handler, on the other hand, observes their dog moving away from the children the first time, and either prevents the children from following the dog, or puts the dog away in the house where he is safe and unbothered. The wise handler OBSERVES and LISTENS to what the dog was saying, and then TAKES ACTION to protect his dog.
Last blog we discussed the art of observing our dogs and their non-verbal communications. But the astute handler or owner moves one step further; they not only observe the situation and the emotions it creates in the dog, but listen to what the dog is “saying” and then take action based on what they see. But what do we mean by ‘listening to the dog?’
Dogs do not lie with their body language; they clearly communicate what they are feeling through their eyes, ears, tail, lips, and overall body. It is one thing to observe the different signals the dog is sending, but a good handler can correctly interpret these signals and respond appropriately to the dog. This is what is described as “listening”. The wise handler does not “brush off” the dog’s discomfort or pretend that the dog is acting differently than it feels (such as insisting that “Fifi” from last blog is just “really shy but likes other dogs”, when in reality she is feeling exceptionally stressed and overwhelmed by meeting a larger, pushier dog.). If a dog is communicating that they are stressed or uncomfortable, then the handler listens to the dog by providing a way out or a means of coping better with the stress at hand. They also may help the dog realize that it is appropriate to ‘take’ the way out when it is offered. This could be as simple as calling the dog over away from a child who is causing the dog stress, or asking for the dog to sit in front and focus on you while at the vet’s office. Not listening to the dog means observing the behavior and then doing nothing about it, relying instead on the dog to ‘handle it’ on his own.
Listening to the dog allows the owner to relieve the stress of the situation, whether it involves removing, protecting, or redirecting the dog. The proactive handler then works on training their dog to better handler or cope with the situation; however, they also work to prevent their dog from getting into situations that would provoke discomfort or anxiety to such a level that the dog resort to violence to make himself heard. Through the art of observation, they are aware of who their dog is, and by listening, they are aware of what their dog needs to handle these situations.
Listening to the dog also builds trust and respect in the dog-human relationship. In the training relationship and in the personal relationship, trust is developed when the dog realizes he has been heard in his communications. When the handler takes action on the dog’s behalf, the dog understands that he has been ‘heard’. As the relationship between them grows, the dog is able to rely on less dramatic non-verbal communication, as the owner grows more perceptive and more capable of reading their dog. Additionally, should the dog find himself in a stressful situation, he is now more likely to rely on the leadership of his handler and trust that his owner will help protect him and bring him through this situation safely. A dog that is listened to consistently may be less likely to take matters into their own paws, and more likely to respond in a safe and appropriate manner.
When the owner listens to their dogs, the situations describe in our previous blog, The Art of Observation, are handled much differently, in a manner that protects the dogs and the people around them. In the previous blog, we used the fictional examples of Fifi, the small dog whose owner forced her to meet a large German Shepherd named Buddy, who in turn was involved in an unfortunate situation involving a low-level bite that nevertheless ended his time with his family (and possibly his life). Had Fifi’s owner observed and listened to her dog, she would have never insisted that Fifi meet a dog she had no interest in whatsoever. Fifi’s owner would have protected her from the larger dog, simply by walking Fifi away to a distance where she felt more comfortable. She could have even spoken up to the owners of the larger dog, informing them that “my dog is not dog-friendly!” so that they would hopefully take the hint and rein their dog in more. Had the boy been educated on and held to proper behavior around dogs (which includes not getting into a dog’s private space, nor hugging the dog), and had the parents observed the first subtle signs of discomfort in their dog, then this bite scenario would have never happened. Buddy’s family would have noticed all the non-verbal communications he was giving that indicated he wanted to be left alone, and they could have taken steps to stop their young son from invading his space, or to call Buddy over to defuse the situation.
Powerful things happen when we observe and listen to our dogs, and then take action based on what we see. Many unpleasant situations or encounters could be avoided every year–including many dog bites, particularly to children–if owners and handlers practice the arts of observation and listening to their dogs. Observe, listen, take action, and watch your relationship with your dog flourish!
“Oh Fifi, don’t be scared of the big dog,” a woman croons as she grabs her little dog, cuddles her, and then sticks her in the face of the big German Shepherd that wanted to meet her. Fifi, now immobilized by her owner and unable to escape, is overwhelmed with fear and stress, increasing the other dog’s attraction to her. Worse still, her owner is ignoring all the non-verbal communication she is giving that shows how clearly uncomfortable she is in this situation: stiffened body, head turned to the side with ears pinned back, staring hard out of the corners of her eyes with the whites of her eyes showing, and a closed mouth with a wrinkled upper lip.
Unfortunately, this can end in only two ways. One–Fifi forces herself to endure the undignified and uncomfortable meeting, but her trust in her owner decreases and her anxiety over large dogs increases since all her warnings went unheeded. Two–Fifi erupts in a fit of snarling, snapping, and barking, potentially causing her owner to drop her or even starting a dog fight. In her panic to get out of this situation, Fifi may even inflict a few bites on her owner’s hands or on the other dog. Not only could Fifi and her owner both be hurt in this scenario, but Fifi’s trust in her handler could be completely eroded, and the “dog aggression” will be worse than it ever was.
Now imagine this big lovable German Shepherd goes home. Fifi managed to snag his ear with her sharp little teeth, but his owner doesn’t notice. The GSD is laying on his dog bed comfortably when the family’s 5-year-old boy wanders over to say ‘hi’. Normally the GSD loves “his” boy, but right now his ear stings and he’s still a little upset over his encounter with Fifi. He raises his head and stiffens his body as the boy approaches. The boy continues to come over, and sits down on the dog bed and in the dog’s space. The dog sits up with his ears back, mouth closed with tight lips, and his gaze looking out of the corner of his eyes so that the whites of his eyes show. Despite his seemingly ‘averted’ gaze, his eyes are hard and his posture has grown very still. The boy comes in and hugs the dog. The next thing the family knows, the dog snaps at the boy, catching a tooth on the top of his head and leaving a mark. The whole ugly scenario takes everyone by surprise–everyone but the dog, as he gave fair warning. Yet when the parents then take their “aggressive” dog to the animal shelter, they continue to exclaim over and over again that “He just bit our son out of the blue! We were all just sitting right there in the living room, and when our son came over, he just bit him with no warning!”
Each of these scenarios above–and many other similar scenarios involving negative dog-dog and dog-human interactions–could have been avoided had the handlers practiced the arts of observing and listening to their dogs.
One of the top skills for any dog owner to learn is that of observing their dog. This is just as important for working dog handlers as it is for pet owners. This involves actively becoming a student of the dog, and looking at the way the dog physically displays his various emotions in different scenarios. What body language does the dog show when he is excited? When he is happy? When he is stressed? When he is uncomfortable? When he is upset? Below is a sampling of various body language dogs may use to communicate different moods:
Happy – relaxed mouth and facial expressions, tail wagging in a relaxed manner, soft eye contact, ears up but mobile and not rigid (see photo at right for an example of an open and happy expression)
Excited – ears forward and locked into position, tail up and over the dog’s back, tail wagging tightly, higher pitched vocalizations such as high-pitched whines or barks, intense eye contact but with open facial expressions
Stressed – dog panting fairly hard even if conditions are cool, ears back, eyes averted from the stressor, head turned away from the stressor, sniffing at the ground, yawning, slowed movements, body shaking, refusal to take food
Uncomfortable – closed mouth, licking the nose, averted or darting eyes, ears are back or out to the side, body is frozen, head is down or turned away, tail is down or clamped between the dog’s legs (see photo at left for an example of a dog expressing discomfort, coupled with a warning gaze)
Fearful – lowered or crouching body posture, ears pinned back, a panicked expression, hackling (hair raised on back of neck), defensive posturing such as snarling and showing teeth
Imminent aggression – completely stiff body, hard eye contact with hard facial expressions, mouth clenched tightly, lips wrinkled slightly by the nose, showing front canine teeth, the ‘whale eye’ (whites of the eye visible as dog freezes and gazes hard out of the corner of their eyes), growling (note: dogs will not show all of these signs, but if any of them are seen, the stress needs to be relieved or removed immediately!!)
For working dog handlers, this art of observation continues into training, such as looking at what behaviors the dog shows when he is on the track, or has lost scent on the track, or is feeling a bit too stressed in protection work, etc. Observations are also extremely important for learning what matters to the dog. What type of play does your dog enjoy most? What types of food does he absolutely love? What toys are his favorite? When is he most active and wanting to play? The handler can take advantage of what the dog loves best and use that in their training.
The astute handler not only observes their dog’s body language, but also makes the connections between the situation and the resulting mood or emotion in their dog. Thus, their observations of their dogs should also provide insight into which types of situations the dog finds stressful, overwhelming, exciting, or uncomfortable. As a result, they are rarely “taken by surprise” by their dog’s behavior, and are proactive in heading off potentially unpleasant or dangerous situations BEFORE they occur.
Observation is just the first step. Join us next blog as we discuss the art of listening to your dog. In the meantime, get out there and become an active student of your dog and his body language!
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A healthy spine starts with preventative care. Why wait until the dog has a specific issue before investigating ways to treat that specific problem and make your dog’s back healthier? In the case of spinal issues, prevention really is the best medicine! In this blog, we discuss some of best ways to care for the spines and backs of our active German Shepherd Dogs. These options can be used both before problems start or after an issue arises to help a dog recover.
Core strengthening and Conditioning
Keeping a dog in good physical condition should be the first step. One of the best preventatives and supports for the canine spine is a proper conditioning program that includes core strengthening exercises. We have written about this previously, in our blog on Canine Core Conditioning. Prior to beginning any conditioning program, the dog should be evaluated by your veterinarian. Dogs with pre-existing conditions or injuries would benefit most from having canine physical therapist create a customized program to address their particular condition.
For active working dogs and family companions, regular chiropractic care should be part of their routine maintenance. Chiropractic care works by maintaining the proper alignment of the vertebrae in the spine; this in turn helps maintain proper nerve function and muscle alignment and action. Chiropractic care can also reduce pain and inflammation in areas aggravated by misaligned vertebrae. This can be very beneficial for older dogs suffering from arthritis, back pain, and spondylosis. We have seen older dogs that could barely stand up and walk come out of a chiropractic adjustment bouncing, trotting, and leaping on their own into their vehicles. Dogs whose back pain could barely be touched with a combination of NSAID pain killers and muscle relaxants have, after one chiropractic adjustment, shown a completely changed demeanor and a return of regular movement, resulting in a complete alleviation of the need for any harsh drugs to manage pain and stiffness. While chiropractic care certainly is not a ‘cure all’, it can make a world of difference for many dogs.
Prior to a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor evaluates the dog’s movement, gait, and flexibility. They also will feel along the dog’s spine, looking for any subluxations (which can be felt, often as a sudden ‘dip’ in the vertebrae of the spine), heat, tightness or tenderness. They can then adjust the dog’s spine using a hand-held activator that uses pressure and vibration to return the vertebra to its correct position. Manual adjustments can also be made, if necessary, particularly to areas like the sacroiliac joint. The chiropractor can also perform a little muscle work, massaging and lengthening the muscles alongside the spine to help them relax and hold the adjustment better. Acute conditions may require several visits spaced out over the course of one or two weeks, until a maintenance level of a monthly adjustment or “as needed” adjustment can be reached.
In German Shepherd Dogs, common areas of focus are the thoracolumbar junction (TL junction), the lumbar area (which serves as the suspension system of the spine), and the lumbosacral region. These are the areas where subluxations are the most common, and they can impede movement and flexibility, impinge nerves and alter nerve function, and abnormally stretch or shorten muscles. The signs are often subtle, such as a slight alteration in the gait of the rear legs, where the dog does not step quite so far underneath themselves when they walk. Other signs can include stiffness, lack of flexibility (particularly on one side), heat from a particular area of the spine (inflammation), chronic pacing movement instead of trotting, and even gastrointestinal issues (often associated with the TL junction).
Regular chiropractic care can help a variety of conditions, from subluxation to arthritis, spondylosis, and even lameness. Certain conditions such as intervertebral disc disease and bulging discs should be approached with great caution, and only under close supervision of a veterinarian. As always, discuss chiropractic care with your veterinarian. A listing of certified animal chiropractors can be found through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), or the Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation (VOM) Technology organization.
Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy has shown great promise for helping with soft tissue repair, and with reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritis or injury. This can be an excellent treatment for arthritis in the spine, intervertebral disc disease, and injuries of the spine and surrounding muscles.
Laser therapy works by using light at a particular frequency to initiate the body’s own healing response. Blood flow increases in the areas treated by the laser, bringing more red blood cells and more oxygen to the affected areas. The increase in nutrient-rich blood nourishes the surrounding cells and promotes healing and repair, while an increase in lymphatic and venous return helps remove waste and damaged cells.
Many veterinary practices now offer packages of Class IV laser treatments. The laser therapy is non-invasive; in most cases, the dog just sits or lays there while the technician moves the hand-held laser wand over the affected areas. The treatments only last a few minutes, and usually are performed several times over the course of a few weeks before tapering off to an ‘as needed’ basis. Check with your veterinarian to see if they offer laser treatments; if not, a search of other local practices may help you find a vet that offers laser therapy. Specific laser companies such as Cutting Edge lasers will also allow you to search for a veterinarian using one of their lasers near you.
Acupuncture may help several conditions of the spine, including intervertebral disc disease, cauda equina, and DM. While it may not cure some of these conditions, acupuncture can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with them. This improves the quality of life for the patient. Acupuncture can also help with the pain and inflammation associated with injury and arthritis, and can decrease the need for harsh drugs.
Acupuncture works through stimulating various points on or under the skin that release a flow of energy, which then travels through channels called meridians. The stimulation of these points help initiate healing in the body. There are several hypotheses about how acupuncture works, such as stimulating nerves and causing the release of endorphins from the brain, or by reducing pro-inflammatory protein markers in the body and thereby decreasing inflammation and pain. Regardless of the actual mechanism, acupuncture has shown effectiveness in treating chronic pain in multiple studies. More information on acupuncture’s use in animals can be found on the website for the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS).
The acupuncturist will usually assess and evaluate the dog before the first treatment, asking you questions about any symptoms you have seen or things that you have noticed. The treatment itself will usually require that the dog sit or lie still while the acupuncturist places the thin, sharp needles at various acupuncture or acupressure points. The needles are left in for a specific amount of time that can vary based on the condition being treated. Many dogs relax very deeply during their acupuncture treatment, to the point that they fall asleep on the floor or table! Animal acupuncturists can be found through the AHVMA and the IVAS.
Using a combination of these various options, you can create a customized support program for your dog to keep his back in top condition throughout his lifetime.
Of the different conditions that can affect the spines of German Shepherd Dogs, no two are feared more than cauda equina and degenerative myelopathy. As anyone who has had a dog afflicted by either of these conditions knows, these conditions are debilitating, progressive, and permanent. Good breeders do their best to breed around these two issues, but with the uncertainty of genetic recombination and inheritance, these conditions can still pop up even in well-bred litters.
While “cauda equina” is used to refer to a particular syndrome found in German Shepherd Dogs, it is technically named after the affected structure. The cauda equina, also known as the “horse’s tail”, is the structure in the spine formed by the nerve roots at the tail end of the spinal cord in the lumbosacral region. Cauda equina syndrome is also known as lumbosacral stenosis, which refers to a narrowing of the vertebral canal around the lumbosacral region of the spine. This narrowing impinges upon the cauda equina structure, causing lower back pain, rear limb pain, lack of coordination in the rear limbs, and even an inability to control bowel and bladder. The MRI picture on the left (from VetsOnline) shows a disc protruding upward into and impinging on the cauda equina structure; this has been circled in red.
Cauda equina syndrome can be something that is acquired during the dog’s lifetime through arthritic narrowing of the vertebral canal or from a bulging disc, or it can also be a genetic condition (a genetically narrower vertebral canal). In German Shepherd Dogs, cauda equina often seems to be linked to the presence of a transitional vertebrae, which in itself creates greater instability in the lumbosacral region of the spine. Affected dogs usually begin to show signs between 3 – 7 years of age.
Symptoms of cauda equina include: difficulty laying down and rising, pain in the back, rear limbs, or tail, a restricted gait in the rear, and sometimes excessive chewing on the hind limbs and pelvic regions due to the nerve pain. The symptoms of cauda equina often mimic other conditions, including hip dysplasia, spinal subluxations, or even muscle strains of the back or rear limbs. Sometimes the first signs are refulsal to jump over a hurdle or into a vehicle. However, a dog that is refusing to jump the 1 meter hurdle in IPO, for example, could be doing so for a variety of reasons, which is why it is important to have a vet thoroughly check the dog for signs of injury before searching for something more serious like cauda equina. Cauda equina can sometimes been seen on x-ray, but most often a special dye must be injected into the affected area to provide better contrast, or an MRI must be done to definitively diagnose it.
Treatment of cauda equina varies based on the cause and severity of the condition. Mild cases are treated with strict rest for 6-8 weeks, in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medications. However, when the dog returns to a more active lifestyle, symptoms may return. More severe cases often require surgery to relieve the stenosis, or narrowing, of the spine and/or the instability that created the arthritic narrowing.
In German Shepherd Dogs, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a recessive genetic condition. Most affected dogs have inherited two copies of the defective gene, although this does not fully reflect if, when, or how severely the dog will develop DM. With DM, the dog gradually begins to lose control of their rear end. Unlike cauda equina, DM itself is not painful, as it involves a gradual loss of sensation and nerve function in the rear limbs. This is because the disease results in the loss of the fatty myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the spinal cord, and in the loss of axons (nerves) extending out to the limbs. The dog begins to lose the ability to successfully transmit information from the brain to the limbs, and from the limbs to the brain. This results in the loss of sensation and a loss of control of the hind limbs in particular, with knuckling over of the hind feet (which often then drag, resulting in open sores on the top of the feet) and the inability to sense that the feet are not in their right position (loss of proprioception). The disease tends to manifest in middle to older age, although there have been cases of younger dogs (3 or 4 years of age) suffering from DM.
Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease that gets increasingly worse as time goes on. There is little that can be done to stop or slow the progression of the disease, unfortunately, which makes genetic screening one of the most powerful tools against DM. Dogs that are carriers, with one copy of the gene, can be bred successfully to dogs that have two normal copies of the gene, and will produce offspring that are either completely normal or are carriers (but should not ever develop the disease, as two copies of the defective genes is necessary in the majority of cases.). Dogs that have the two recessive copies of the gene can still be bred to successfully, as long as they are bred to a dog that is homozygous normal for the trait. All the puppies will be carriers for the recessive DM gene, but there is an infinitesimally small chance of a carrier ever developing DM. Studies thus far have shown that dogs possessing two recessive copies for the DM gene are at most risk for developing the disease. Further discussion of test results for DM can be found here.
Treatment for DM essentially consists of supportive care that focuses on improving the quality of life for the dog afflicted with the disease. This includes good nursing care at home, devices to help with mobility (such as harnesses, slings, and carts), and physical therapy. The goal is to mediate the symptoms of the disease as best as possible, and to make the dog as comfortable as possible.
Conan z Dubodiela, tittles IPO 1, BH. This dog comes directly from Slovakia. He is just an all around great dog. He recently won his regional schutzhund championship. Great family and sport dog. Has been raised with children, cats and other dogs. Call for additional information and pricing.
The German Shepherd breed is characterized by an efficient structure that utilizes a slightly longer back as a suspension system during movement, particularly at the trot. While this slightly longer back does work effectively as this energy transfer system, it does predispose the German Shepherd Dog to back troubles. These issues range from something as simple as a subluxation of the spine to more severe conditions like genetic Degenerative Myelopathy or cauda equina. In this blog, we will cover subluxations, back strains, spondylosis and transitional vertebrae. In our next blog, we will cover the more serious conditions of cauda equina and degenerative myelopathy.
A subluxation is a misalignment of one or more of the spinal vertebrae. Subluxations can have a profound impact on the dog in multiple ways: restricting joint movement and range of motion, creating excessive joint motion (hypermobility), pinching or impinging nerves that exit or enter the spine, tightening and straining muscles, creating abnormal gait and movement, restricting overall motion and flexibility, and more. In some cases, subluxations can even can cause sudden or chronic lameness. Any sign of lameness should be investigated by a vet, of course. But common lameness associated with subluxations include sudden rear end lameness, such as a swinging or ‘gimping’ of the back leg, or moving very stiffly in the rear. Other symptoms include back pain, which often manifests itself as difficulty laying down and/or rising, restlessness or inability to get comfortable, and stiffness or even immobility upon getting up from a prolonged resting position (such as after sleeping).
For our athletic and active working dogs, a subluxation can cause systemic effects on their performance. The misaligned vertebrae can put excess pressure on nerves, which will in turn negatively affect the region innervated by this nerve. The dog may begin to adapt their posture and their movement to compensate for any tension or pain caused by the subluxation, which then creates uneven muscle development, muscle recruitment, and overcompensation resulting in fatigue and even injury of the muscles now taking the load. Excessive movement of the vertebrae can also result in the development of osteoarthritis, creating bone spurs, bridging, and eventually spondylosis. Impingement on the nerves can also alter nerve function, and can cause inflammation as well.
This photo on the right shows the spine of a 7-year-old working German Shepherd Dog who has competed for five years in IPO, and who received regular adjustments from a canine chiropractor throughout his career. A subluxation can be shown at the junction between the last lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum (by the pelvis), but other than this, the spine is in remarkable condition for this working dog. This particular subluxation manifested itself as lower back soreness, shortened range of motion of the rear limbs, and twice as sudden lameness of the left rear leg. Regular chiropractic care coupled with cold laser therapy helped improve and correct this condition.
Dogs can pull the muscles that run along their spine. Actions like running and twisting in mid-air to capture a bouncing ball or Frisbee or fleeing helper in protection work can strain the back muscles. These muscles can also tighten and shorten, losing their suppleness and creating restrictions in the range of motion on one side. This often manifests as the dog clearly favoring one side over the other, and showing an inability to turn or stretch to one side. Back strains cause inflammation in the muscle tissue, which will cause pain and tenderness. Dogs may have difficulty laying down, may refuse to jump, or may vocalize upon jumping, laying down, or stretching. However, because dogs are excellent at hiding injuries, back strains may go unnoticed unless the handler is very astute.
Transitional vertebrae are more common in German Shepherd Dogs than in many other breeds. Transitional vertebrae are a congenital malformation of the spine that occur at the junction between either the thoracic and lumbar junction, or the lumbar and sacral junction. In GSDs, the lumbosacral junction is most commonly affected. The transitional vertebrae often will not have any clinical signs associated with it, and many owners do not even know that their dog has a transitional vertebrae until they have the dog’s hips x-rayed for OFA or SV hip certifications.
While many dogs with a transitional vertebrae can show few, if any, problems, the transitional vertebrae can create further instability in the lumbosacral region of the spine, increasing the risk of hip dysplasia, spondylosis, arthritis, and even cauda equina (vertebral stenosis). This instability results in excessive movement of the lower region of the spine, which in turn can lead to the development of arthritis and spondylosis. The asymmetry and rotation of the pelvis that can result from a transitional vertebrae has also been implicated in the formation of unilateral hip dysplasia; this can be seen in the x-ray on the left. The transitional vertebrae is circled in red. There is significant asymmetry of the pelvis (seen with how uneven the iliac crests (top edges) of the pelvis are), coupled with unilateral hip dysplasia seen on the left side of the x-ray (original image can be found here).
Spondylosis is a common form of arthritis in older dogs, particularly those who have been very active over their lifetimes. With spondylosis, new bone is created on the underside of the vertebrae, and can eventually form across the gap between two vertebrae (a condition known as “bridging”, seen in the image above on the underside of the spine). Spondylosis usually forms in response to instability of the spine, as the body tries to strengthen the spine by fusing the vertebrae. Thus, this condition most commonly forms in the regions of the dog’s spine that have the greatest instability: the lumbar and lumbosacral region, and the thoracolumbar junction. The bone spurs of spondylosis can be quite painful to the dog, and reduce the overall flexibility of the spine. Inflammation from the developing bone spurs can cause pain and stiffness, making it difficult for the dog to lay down comfortably for long periods of time, and to rise upon laying down. Spondylosis can often be managed well with a combination of regular chiropractic care, cold laser therapy, nutraceutical support (glucosamine, chondroitin, etc.), and anti-inflammatories (conventional or alternative) as needed.
Stay tuned for our next blog, in which we tackle Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) and cauda equina.
Lasslo von ewigen Gletschor, tittles IPO 1, BH, AD. Lasslo is a very beautiful looking male. He is a German import; his hips and elbows are certified and received the highest German rating “A” Normal. He was shown in Germany and received a show rating of “V” Excellent. He is a medium size dog. Lasslo is very well trained and loves to work for a ball. He is very devoted and affectionate to his family but sometimes takes a few minutes to warm up to new people. He gets along with other dogs including small ones. Lasslo is one of our lower priced dogs being offered at $8,500. Great value for someone on a limited budget. Call for more details, pics and video.
Idefix vom Team Geixenhof (call name “Eddy”). Titles Bh, APR 1. APR is an obedience and protection title. His hips and elbows are certified in Germany with the highest rating possible “A normal”. We consider Eddy as our “gentle giant”. He is definitely in the XL category as far as size. Despite his size Eddy is very active and agile. He is very playful and full of personality. Eddy is a VERY formidable watchdog. He welcomes guests that check in with the family but will bark ferociously if strangers come unannounced. He is very obedient and well trained. Loves to play ball and run. Very affectionate to his family. We think Eddy is a very special dog. Call for further info and pricing.