Big Dogs and Hips

by DFS-Pet-Blog on September 18, 2009

Dulse, at 11, running down the beach

Dulse, at 11, running down the beach

Dulse, my 12-year-old Newf, had a PennHip score done when he was 4 months old. I had been taking care of him, and his littermate, Baci, for the breeder, who usually kept her pups until they had their PennHips done. A PennHip is a special type of X-ray that determines the laxity (or the looseness) of hip bones in their socket.  It has been shown that the looser the pup’s hips are in the socket the more likely the dog will have hip dysplasia. Dulse’s hips were among the” loosest” that the veterinarian had seen, meaning that there was a high likelihood that he would develop severe hip dysplasia and probably need a total hip replacement when he was an adult.

The breeder would not give a puppy to a family if problems were going to be seen down the line, so she thought seriously about keeping the pup or having him euthanized. I know now that she would never do that, but then, leaving him at the breeder’s for his almost certain fate upset me terribly. I lived in the Twin Cities at the time, already had one adult Newf and I was keeping Baci, the other littermate. I had kept both pups for two months, and knew how difficult raising littermates could be, so at the time I thought I had enough on my plate. I never wanted more than two dogs – that’s hard enough!

At the time, I worked as a veterinary technician for the University of Minnesota’s vet school’s emergency department, and was able to bring my dogs to work, so my colleagues knew all about my pups and the dilemma. One colleague, Tammi, even offered to take Dulse. Vets and vet techs often have animals that have health problems because they have more capacity than the average person to deal with them.

I thought about Dulse and having Tammi take him and realized that if she could handle him, so could I. I called the breeder up that night and offered to take him. He has been living with me ever since.

Fast forward 12 years later. I keep him lean; I exercise him regularly, and give him a good diet supplemented with Omega-3 fatty acids and Joint Care. He has been the healthiest of my four dogs. He’s had no surgeries, and although he has always “bunny hopped” (the term for a dog running and hopping on his back legs), he does not limp. He has only been on pain medications for the past few years, and those seemed to be working – until just recently , when he started having trouble getting up.

He is on another pain medication, Tramadol, which can be given with his Metacam without interacting with it. It still does not seem to help as much as I would like it to, so I have decided to take him to a veterinary chiropractor. A friend and another vet tech took her old dog to a chiropractor in town and Dulse’s littermate, Rollo, sees a chiropractor in Minneapolis and both have had good results. I don’t think it will hurt and it may give him some pain relief, so I am willing to give it a try.

More on the results after the appointment.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Merritts September 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

What a gorgeous Newfie! We have a big sweet gorgeous black Newfie too, Jack, who is a rescue. All three of our large dogs have had leg trouble at some point and it is a worry that they will need surgery at some point.That is the one-and ONLY-downfall of having a very large dog. On the other hand, nothing compares to the cuddling you get when your huge Newfie decides he is never going to stop being your lap dog!!

Barb S. September 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

Hi Terri- I always like to hear from fellow Newfie “parents”. Good for you for taking the responsibility on to have a rescue dog – especially a giant breed!

I know what it is to worry about my giants needing surgery at some point. I cannot stress enough what a surprise it has been that Dulse had not needed surgery early on in his life. I swear it has a lot to do with having kept him lean, the amount of exercise I give him, good, premium food, and glucosamine/chondrotin (Joint Care)/Omega 3 supplements.

Oh, and you are right- sometimes there is nothing better than having a big, furry dog to hug ! Tell me about the other two besides Jack if you have time!

Nancy Hastings September 26, 2009 at 11:24 am

Hi Barb,
I adopted (after fostering 5 ) my St. Bernard who was given up by a man who was going to put her down because he thought her back was broken. She would scream out in pain when she tried to get up. She was on up to 5 Tramadol a day. Then we (Adopt A Saint, ST Bernard Rescue of So. CA) found a vet that treated her with infusions of Legends (more commonly used to help lame horses) and Adequan (you have probably heard of that). These treatments have been miraculous for her. People can’t believe she is the same dog. Being a vet tech, your vet may know about it. If you are interested I will give you my vet’s info. (My e-mail is You are so lucky to have had your Newfie for 12 years. Good care and premum food really helps too, GREAT JOB. Don’t you just love these Gentle Giants?

Barb September 28, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hi Nancy
I am so happy to hear stories like yours. You are a wonderful person to care for a rescued giant breed.I have to look up Adopt a Saint and St Bernard Rescue of Southern California. It is so important for people to know that these rescue organizations exist.

Thanks for the info about Adequan and Legend – I knew Adequan is sometimes used, but not the horse medication Legend. We do carry both in our pharmacy.

Re: My 12-year-old: I am thankful for every day I have with him that he is healthy and happy. And yes, I have a special place in my heart for all Gentle Giants – drool? what drool? When I was first looking at Newfs, a lot of breeders would test potential puppy parents by having one of their big droolers come into the room – if you didn’t mind the slobber, you got a gold star!

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