Canine behavior is a relatively new science, but one that has exploded with human interest in the past decade. Dog lovers now have an explanation for some of their beloved pet's kooky behavior. Dog experts, like Cesar Millan, report dogs are genetically engineered to work. From the moment a dog opens his eyes he's looking for a job to do. Any physical deformation -- such as a clubfoot -- that hinders this law of nature will disrupt a dog's psyche and physiology, in addition to the malfunction itself.
Canine clubfoot, also known as congenital talipes equinovarus, is a genetically defined deformation that has more to do with the leg bone than the foot. Because the front leg bone does not grow properly, the femoral structure pushes the dog's foot outward or inward. This condition also can occur when a young puppy is denied a nutritious diet.
Clubfoot is not a medical emergency and dogs can live a long life without tending to the deformity. Veterinarians can make the final determination, which relies solely on the severity of the condition. The Merck Veterinary Manual, advises that a dog with a severe foot deformity can suffer other medical issues related to the inability to walk properly. Such conditions as intervertebral disk disease, the cartilage-like material of the spine depletes, and a systemic stripe of arthritis commonly accompany canine clubfoot.
All pet dogs are 10,000 years of domestication away from the original wild dog Canis lupus. Many instinctual behaviors have remained imprinted on the pet dogs that owners keep today. According to Wolfcountry.net, for dogs within a pack in the wild it is survival of the fittest. Any weak or deformed dog would be killed or left behind. For domestic canines with a clubfoot that can translate into diminished confidence, defied sociability, an aversion to be handled or hostility.
If treatment for canine clubfoot starts early in puppyhood, the foot can grow to be stable and to function normally. In the American Kennels Club pet care manual, canine clubfoot is treated much like it is in humans. The veterinarian will manipulate the dog's leg in a more weight bearing position, then cast the leg to omit movement. This solution is available for young puppies, and dogs without too severe of a case. It does depend on the amount of deformity. For severe cases, or dogs that are older, surgery may be necessary to attain normal function.
- A Member of the Family: The Ultimate Guide to Living with a Happy, Healthy Dog; by Cesar Millan, Sept.2009
- The Merck Veterinary Manual; 10th Edition, by Cynthia M. Kahn and Scott Line, Oct.2010
- Wolf Country: The Wolf Pack
- American Kennel Club Dog Care and Training; (AKC) Club Foot, McMillan and General Reference, NY, 1991
- Dean Golja/Digital Vision/Getty Images