Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)
Hello all, I am new to the forum.
I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on HOD. I am doing this because when my boy got HOD, I researched it like crazy and couldn't find many personal stories on the web. All I could find was basically medical definitions and information on what HOD is on medical websites.
For those of you who don't know what HOD is, I will give a brief overview on it to my best knowledge.
HOD is basically inflammation in a dogs growth plates. It tends to take place in their elbow joints, and can effect all 4 legs, but doesn't necessarily have to effect all 4.
Your vet can usually diagnose HOD by taking X-rays.
HOD is not very common.
HOD is much more common in larger dogs, and it is even more common among larger males. My GSD's father weighed about 120 lbs and his mother weighed about 90 lbs. So I was expecting him to grow up to be a big boy. You will generally see this disease in much larger breeds, but it can be somewhat common in larger German Shepherds.
This disease is associated with growth periods, so usually it will come on between 2 months and last even up to 1.5 years of age.
According to my vet, breeding and genetics do not correlate with HOD. From my research, there may be some correlation with genetics (large parents means large puppy, which means higher risk for HOD). So just because you pay the money to get a healthy dog from a good breeder, doesn't mean you aren't at risk.
Lastly.. From my research I found that many puppies with HOD began having flare ups within a few weeks of beginning vaccinations. My vet told me that there isn't enough evidence to prove that vaccinations have anything to do with HOD, but my puppy began having flare ups less than 2 weeks after he began getting vaccinations.
So now that we have a general understanding of what HOD is, let me tell you about my experience.
I will start off by saying this. My boy went through flare ups that would last anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks, and then maybe 1 week where it was a little better. Every time he would start feeling better I would think that it was finally over. I would always think, "I really wish I would have taken daily notes to track his health." I never took detailed notes because every time he began feeling better I thought it was over, so there was no need to take notes. If you find that your dog has HOD, I highly recommend taking detailed daily notes just so you can better track his health and report correct information to the vet.
Like I said before, my boy's symptoms came on shortly after receiving vaccinations. I do not remember which vaccinations he received, but he was somewhere around 12 to 15 weeks old at this time. He began acting lethargic and didn't want to do anything. He then would occasionally puke and have diarrhea. After a few weeks it became obvious that he was very sore. He would walk very slow with a bad limp. Another sign of HOD is a dog walking with his back arched upwards. My dog would lay down all day and occasionally he would struggle to stand up and limp to a new resting spot. We took him to the vet and got him some anti-inflammatory medicine. This really didn't help him all too much.
He acted as though his back hips were the source of the pain, or at least the back legs. I could tell that his front legs hurt as well. His front elbow joints began to swell about a week after he began showing signs of pain. His joints ended up being the size of a baseball or a grape fruit.
His pain grew worse. For almost a month he couldn't walk more than a few steps. He wouldn't move for me to pick him up. I had to carry him outside to do his business, and then carry him back in and lay him down gently. He would lay there all day looking sad. At night he would cry and shake because his pain was so extreme. He even puked because of his extreme pain on a few occasions.
Like I said, the flare ups usually lasted 2 to 4 weeks, but the period in between these flare ups was still rough. When he wasn't having a flare up he would act a little more peppy and he could walk around the house with a mild limp.
We took him to the vet a few times and ended up adding heavy doses of pain medicine and continuing his anti-inflammatory. This would take the edge off the pain, but we could hardly tell a difference. After probably 1.5 months we put him on steroids. After 2 months or so on steroids he began feeling a lot better, but the steroids brought on other problems as well (skin and hair issues, mild temperament changes, and some other small things. nothing that couldn't be fixed). Just know that if you have to put your dog on steroids, be ready for the chance of other issues arising.
For now, my boy has been feeling much better for the past 6 months or so. He is currently 11 months old, so I am hoping that the flare ups are over. This was a very short and not very detailed description of my situation. It was really awful, and made for a very long 4 months. I know that my boy didn't have the most extreme case of HOD, but I was told by two of my vets that he had the worst case they had ever seen.
So, what did I learn from this situation and what are some of the tips I can offer??
1. I know that some owners decide to put down puppies with HOD. In my opinion (and my vet's opinion) this is a very selfish decision. While the pain may be very extreme, all dogs will grow out of HOD. Sometimes there can be permanent damage, but your dog can live a very fulfilling and happy life after HOD. PLEASE DO NOT consider putting your puppy down. Don't be selfish and lazy, your dog will out grow it. It will just take some effort from you to help make your dog comfortable.
2. Don't be afraid of how hard the process will be, but be prepared to give your dog extra attention and put in the effort they will require from you. You may have to carry your dog out to potty multiple times every day. You will have to flip your dog from one side to the other so they don't develop sores. You will have to spend a little extra money on medicine, vet visits, and other supplemental items. IT IS ALL WORTH IT!!!
While my pup was sick I was in college and working part time. I still came home multiple times every day to tend to him and I devoted probably 95% of my free time to him. I woke up with him multiple times every night to take him outside. A few nights we even slept on the floor with him. I would wake up with him early in the morning and I made sure he got all of his meds when he needed them. There is no excuse, just put the effort in. This condition won't last forever, and your dog will be forever grateful that you were there for him or her.
3. Pay close attention to your dog and keep a detailed journal. Take note of what he is eating and how much. Take note of how much medicine he is receiving and when. Take note on his pain levels.. you get the point.
4. Your dog needs rest. While it was sad to see him lay around all day, I never pushed him. I let him get his rest.
5. Do not push your dog between flare ups or when flare ups are gone! I made this mistake. After his second or third flare up he acted like he was getting better for a few weeks. I started to play with him outside and take him on short walks. He ended up getting flare ups again. Even when you think your pup is better, give him at least 2 months to recover. If he is still improving after two months and he seems back to normal, start by taking very short walks and try to stay off of pavement and concrete. Slowly build him up to more intense exercise. Also keep him away from stairs for a while.
Another thing that you should keep in mind... while your pup is sick you really won't be able to work on any training. Most of the training we did before my pup got sick went away by the time he was feeling better. Be prepared to really work with your pup once they are feeling better. Depending on your situation, you may also miss out on crucial stages of your pups life. We missed out on socializing our pup. Once he was feeling better it was like he was being introduced to a whole new world. He wasn't used to seeing kids, elderly people, vehicles, bikes, etc... Be ready to work with your dog and be patient! But do not force your pup to do much while he is not feeling well...
Here are a few tips I learned along the way.
1. Buy expensive food. You get what you pay for. But don't just spend a lot on a random dog food. Do your research. Your pup needs specific nutrients, and specifically he DOES NOT need a lot of Calcium. That may sound strange, but calcium promotes growth, and specifically bone growth. HOD is usually caused by fast growth. Even if your puppy does not have HOD, I recommend buying a breed specific puppy food. You can then move your dog to a cheaper food when they are older, but the first year your dog should be fed high quality food. I began feeding my dog Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy food. This helped a lot and I highly recommend it!!
2. Pedialyte works wonders! My boy had troubles staying hydrated. I would give him a small bowl of pedialyte (grape dye free) twice a day. When he was really sick I would give him a few syringes of pedialyte a couple times a day. This would really perk him up and really helped me because I saw how much it helped him. We even made some Pedialyte ice cubes (if your dog likes ice cubes)
3. Do not neglect your pups routine care. Try to still brush him occasionally, clean his ears, etc...
4. If your pup is having troubles going to the bathroom, keep him clean!
5. Anti inflammatory and pain medicine will help, but adding supplements can help make a difference. For a while I gave my pup a MSM supplement and a glucosamine supplement. These seemed to help, but I recommend giving your dog half the suggested does of glucosamine. Some helps, but too much seemed to do more damage.
6. Don't force your pup to eat. They aren't eating because they don't feel well and their body is telling them to stop growing so fast. That being said, don't let your dog not eat. Give your pup his normal amount of food, but if he chooses not to eat it, that's ok. Just make sure he eats at least 1 or .5 of one normal serving every day. You will get the feel for it. If you need to, entice him with some wet food when you have to.
7. Give your dog a soft surface to lay on. My pup hated being on couches, dog beds, and stuff like that. But when I put him on my bed he would relax and I could tell it helped ease his pain. Get your pup a nice dog bed or give him blankets to lay on. It will help take some of the pressure off of his joints.
8. Pepto bismol will greatly help his stomach. If your pup has an upset stomach, don't be afraid to give him some pepto, or even small doses of anti diarrheal medicine.
9. Spend time with your pup. While taking care of his physical needs may be time consuming, make sure you also spend time petting him and talking to him. Lay on the floor next to him and comfort him!
10. If your dog is an outside dog (especially in the winter), allow him to live inside while he is going through this painful experience. Cold weather will only make his condition worse.
Put in the effort for your pup. They will grow out of this disease, and the effort is well worth it.
As of now my boy is healthy and living life to the fullest!!
I am sure I am missing a lot, so please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I just want to help people who have pups suffering from this disease.