In all areas of your dog's health, and especially if he is obviously sick you should consult your vet immediately.
What this page hopes to achieve is to pass on some general information that all responsible dog owners should be aware of.
The Estrela Mountain Dogs are generally very healthy dogs. They don't require much care beyond being clean, well fed and daily exercise.
But being a large breed the Estrela tend to suffer from Hip Dysplasia. Hip dysplasia can be found in dogs, cats, and humans but on dogs, it is primarily a disease of large and giant breeds.
There is a strong genetic link between parents that have hip dysplasia and the incidence in their offspring.
There are probably other factors, too that contribute toward the severity of the disease.

Hip Dysplasia

The hip joint forms the attachment of the hind leg to the body and is a ball and socket joint. The ball portion is the head of the femur while the socket (acetabulum) is located on the pelvis.
In a normal joint the ball rotates freely within the socket. To facilitate movement the bones are shaped to perfectly match each other, with the socket surrounding the ball.
To strengthen the joint, the two bones are held together by a ligament. The ligament attaches the femoral head directly to the acetabulum. Also, the joint capsule, which is a very strong band of connective tissue, encircles the two bones adding further stability. The area where the bones actually touch each other is called the articular surface. It is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage. In the normal dog, all of these factors work together to cause the joint to function smoothly and with stability. Hip dysplasia results from the abnormal development of the hip joint in the young dog. It may or may not be bilateral, affecting both right and left sides. It is brought about by the laxity of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that should support the joint. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips but due to genetic and possibly other factors, the soft tissues that surround the joint start to develop abnormally as the puppy grows. The most important part of these changes is that the bones are not held in place but actually move apart. The joint capsule and the ligament between the two bones stretch, adding further instability to the joint. As this happens, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. This separation of the two bones within a joint is called subluxation and this, and this alone, causes all of the resulting problems we associate with the disease.


What are the risk factors for the development of hip dysplasia?

There is a strong genetic link between parents that have hip dysplasia and the incidence in their offspring but there are other factors too that contribute toward the severity of the disease.
Overweight dogs are at a much higher risk. Another factor that may increase the incidence is rapid growth in a puppy during the ages from three to ten months.
Exercise may be another risk factor. Dogs may have an increased incidence of disease if they over-exercised at a young age. But at the same time, we know that dogs with large and prominent leg muscle mass are less likely to contract the disease than dogs with small muscle mass. So exercising and maintaining good muscle mass may actually decrease the incidence of the disease. Moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles, such as running and swimming, is probably a good idea. Whereas, activities that apply a lot of force to the joint are contraindicated. For example jumping activities or going up and down stairs.

Bloat / Gastric dilatation-volvulus

Bloat is a very serious health risk for many dogs, yet many dog owners know very little about it.
It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermans are particularly at risk.
If you believe your dog is experiencing bloat, please get your dog to a veterinarian immediately! Bloat can kill in less than an hour!
Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation"). Stress can be a significant contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the oesophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

- Elevated food bowls
- Rapid eating
- Exercise before and especially after eating
- Having a deep and narrow chest compared to other dogs of the same breed

- Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-20 minutes
- Significant anxiety and restlessness
- Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
- "Hunched up" or "roached up" appearance
- Accelerated heartbeat (Heart rate increases as bloating progresses)
- Weak pulse - Collapse

How is bloat treated?
Treatment needs to be undertaken immediately. Time is a very decisive factor in the success or failure of correcting bloat.

Feed the dog two small meals a day instead of one large meal
Do not allow the dog to drink large quantities of water at one time
Do not allow exercise or other vigorous activity for at least two hours after a full meal.