You love your noble, majestic Great Dane. Is there a prouder-looking dog on the planet? Unfortunately, the Dane's great size also predisposes him to certain bone and joint issues. Keep an eye on your Dane. If he exhibits any signs of lameness, take him to the vet for a diagnosis.
It takes a long time for a Dane's bones to mature. Two bone problems may strike growing Great Danes. Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, similar to the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that affects young people, attacks the young Dane's joints. If your Dane puppy's joints swell or he has a fever, take him to vet for treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can save your dog from this painful condition. Young Danes are also prone to panosteitis, often called "growing pains." Not as serious as hypertrophic osteodystrophy, panosteitis affects the long bones in the legs. Your Dane might be lame, and the lameness might move from one leg to another. Eventually the dog outgrows it, but in the meantime your vet may prescribe pain medications to help your Dane.
Danes are prone to osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bone. This usually affects the front legs. Bone cancer generally shows up in older dogs, after the age of 7. While 7 is middle-aged for smaller canines, it's getting up there for giant breeds like the Dane. Your dog might show signs of lameness that worsen over a period of weeks. However, one of the first signs could be a broken bone. To make a diagnosis, your vet must perform a biopsy of the bone. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, amputation may give your Dane a longer lifespan. Most dogs adjust to loss of a limb. Radiation and chemotherapy treatment might also prolong your Dane's life.
Wobbler syndrome affects the dog's spine in the neck area. Its actual name is cervical vertebral instability, but it got its nickname because wobbling is one of the early signs. If your Dane is affected, he might start wobbling when walking, especially in the hind end. As wobbler syndrome progresses, it affects all of his legs and he's obviously in pain. The condition generally appears when a Dane is about 3 years old. Your vet diagnoses it by performing neurological and physical tests on your Dane, along with X-rays. In the early stages, she may prescribe medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Use a harness when walking your Dane, rather than a collar, to avoid stressing his neck. In more advanced cases, surgery is an option.
Like many large breeds, Danes may suffer from hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia causes early signs of arthritis and eventual loss of mobility. In mild cases, your vet can prescribe medication to ease pain. In more severe cases, surgery is required to fix the joint. Since hip dysplasia is hereditary, when purchasing a Dane puppy, buy only from reputable breeders who can show you clean X-rays of the parent's hips. If your dog does suffer from hip dysplasia, keep him a little on the thin side. Overweight dogs put more stress on their joints.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.