Why is my Ridgeback puppy bow-legged? My vet is stumped.
There’s a very fancy name for this malformation of the front legs in puppies: “carpal flexural deformity.” Terms that breeders often use include “bowing out,” in which the front resembles that of a Bulldog, with the legs under the elbow splaying out, as well as “knuckling over,” in which there is hyperextension at the wrist, or carpus joint.
As severe as this condition looks, it often can be resolved just as dramatically. In some large-breed puppies, it can be a result overnutrition/calcium supplementation. A move to an adult, slow-growth food might be advisable. Eagle Pack for Giant and Large Breed Puppies is a brand that many breeders who have experience with this problem recommend.
Having puppies on slick surfaces − such as uncarpeted wood or linoleum floors − can also exacerbate this condition.
Linda Arndt, better known as the Great Dane Lady, created a fabulous resource page for more information about oversupplementing large-breed puppies, and the developmental problems it can create. While she unfortunately is no longer with us, her web site thankfully still is.
As for the Ridgeback puppy in question, her owner look her off the supplements she was on, and switched foods to an adult version. (As always, consult a veterinary professional before taking any course of action, as this puppy owner did.) Less than a month later, he sent the following photo:
While this young puppy’s story ended happily, there have been isolated cases of Ridgebacks with a kind of orthopedic malformation of the front assembly that does not resolve with nutritional intervention.
This particular dog had a littermate with a slightly less dramatic bowing of his legs. Both were placed on low-protein adult foods, but that had no impact. That suggests that this is likely a genetic condition, possibly harkening back to the Bullie blood that was used early on in the breed’s development. These Ridgebacks continue to develop very a bowed front construction, with curved bone that is very similar to what you might expect in a Bulldog.