Some dogs have hip issues that go beyond just getting old; they have hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball and socket joint of the hip is malformed. This means that instead of everything fitting together as it should, you know… hip bone connected to the back bone … the ball and the socket don’t fit together properly. This results is a joint that rubs and grind together, causing pain, decreased range of motion and possibly lameness.
It’s one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs, and it affects large breeds more than small breeds. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that can also been exacerbated by inadequate nutrition and obesity.
Some dogs may begin to show symptoms as early as four months, and others dogs develop hip dysplasia in tandem with arthritis as they get older. Symptoms manifest depending on the severity of the condition, how inflamed the joint is and how advanced the hip dysplasia is (or how long the dog has suffered with it).
15 Breeds Most at Risk for Hip Dysplasia
1. Bassett Hound
4. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
5. Chow Chow
6. German Shepherd
7. Golden Retriever
8. Great Dane
9. Labrador Retriever
12. Old English Sheepdogs
15. St. Bernard
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Hip Dysplasia?
Some cases of hip dysplasia are very mild, and there are no noticeable symptoms. Responsible breeders often send x-rays of their puppies to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) for grading and certification.
There is a range of noticeable symptoms. These include:
- Decreased activity
- Decreased range of motion
- Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
- Intermittent or persistent lameness in the hind limbs
- Looseness in the joint
- Narrow stance (legs unnaturally close together)
- Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
- Grating detected in the joint during movement
- Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
- Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles due to more weight on front legs as the dog tries to avoid weight on the hips
- Pain in hip joint
What Is the Treatment for Hip Dysplasia?
Once arthritis is present, the hip dysplasia has progressed to the point of no return, meaning the condition cannot be reversed. But there are non-surgical ways to treat it, which will make your dog a lot more comfortable. According to the OFA, research has shown that “up to 76% of severely dysplastic dogs with arthritis secondary to HD are able to function and live comfortable, quality lives with conservative management.”
Non-surgical options include:
- Weight reduction
- Restricting exercise
- Physical therapy
- Cold laser treatment
- Targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Moist heat
In younger dogs, surgery is an option, depending on certain factors. Your dog must be finished growing, have no other joint or bone problems, no nerve problems, and be in general good health. According to The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, 95% of dogs have good to excellent results, with pain-free function, increased muscle mass, no limping, and increased activity.
There are different surgical approaches. These include:
- FHO (Femoral Head Excision or Osteotomy): This involves creating a false hip joint by removing the femoral head, or “ball,” of the hip joint. The ligament around the hip is stitched up. Scar tissues forms during healing in the joint to prevent the rubbing of bone on bone, creating a “false” joint.
- THR (Total Hip Replacement): The surgeon replaces the entire hip joint with metal and plastic implants.
- TPO (Double or triple pelvic osteotomy): Usually performed on young dogs, the socket and ball of the hip are repositioned by cutting the pelvic bone and rotating the segments.
Prevention is always the best way to go when it comes to hip dysplasia. Keep your pup’s weight at a healthy number. Don’t over or under exercise your dog. Consider supplements to support your dog’s joint health. And for the breeds at the highest at risk, avoid climbing, including stairs and trails, and activities that involve jumping, especially as a puppy.