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German Shepherds have a long history of partnership with people. Originally bred as working dogs, they were favored for herding sheep and defending them if attacked. Known for their athleticism, intelligence, affection, and protective nature of their owners, they are also known for diseases that affect their breed disproportionately, because of poor practices by some breeders.
Sadly many of these great animals end their lives in pain, often unable to stand. There are three common causes for that, which might appear the same to an untrained observer, but require different treatment regimes.
Hip Dysplasia / elbow dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint that causes deterioration of the cartilage, eventually causing pain, arthritis, and debilitation.
In a dysplastic joint, the bones are too loose, and don’t fit snugly in the socket. This allows the bones to move beyond their appropriate range of motion, causing bones to rub together. Over time that causes inflammation, along with increasing discomfort.
Elbow dysplasia is the same problem at a different joint. In either case, there are a few treatment options. Diet can help reduce inflammation, and keeping a healthy weight will reduce the strain on the joint. Warm and dry sleeping areas help manage the pain and inflammation as well, especially if arthritis has set in. Pain medication can be used, although some dogs will have conditions that are contra-indicated for pain medication, and it is better to avoid for long term use.