Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Treatment, Prevention, Diagnosis, and Care

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Hip dysplasia is abnormal formation of the hip joint, also known as coxofemoral joint, that happens during growth period in animals. Some large breed of dog owners have experienced this in their pets, but hip dysplasia isn’t uncommon and can happen to any dog.

In retrospect, the ball located in the femur isn’t located properly into the socket located in the hip. Dogs affected may show no signs of hip dysplasia, while others may manifest severe signs.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in dogs

A number of factors can contribute to the problem of hip dysplasia. The condition may also be genetically inherited by some breeds.

Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Old English Sheepdogs, and St Bernards among others, commonly inherit hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can also be developed by some environmental factors, and some of them include weight gain, diet and exercise.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

Signs of hip dysplasia may be noticed in young growing dogs and as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age.

Nonetheless, there is no connection between the severity of hip dysplasia and the age of a dog. Meaning, debilitation may be noticed even in young pups.

In other cases however, abnormalities may not be noticed in dogs until they are a year or two. Also, the condition may not even be painful, and numbness may not be experienced until they are six to ten years old; depending on what breed of dog it is.

Some hip dysphasia signs to out for in your dog include:

  • Numbness in hind leg
  • Abnormal gait
  • Reluctance to jump and run
  • Hard time laying down or standing
  • Poor coordinations in the hind quarters

Diagnosing hip dysplasia

A physical examination can be taken by your veterinarian to check the motion of your pet’s hip socket. X-rays may also be an alternative to confirm how severe the condition is.

Treating hip dysplasia

Some surgical and medical treatment are readily available these days to aid in restoring the mobility of your dog, and to also improve discomfort.

Treatment methods depends on some factors which may include the severity of the condition and the age of the dog. Generally, depending how how extreme the condition is, surgery is a last option and is only discussed when other forms of treatment aren’t effective.

It is also effective in improving athletic activities, especially in young patients, or to minimize the progression of degenerative joint disease to maximize long-term limb functions.

Non surgical options

Non surgical treatment is essentially the same as treatment for arthritis including a weight management program (including nutritional supplements), medications to help support and repair cartilage and medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Refer to our topic on arthritis for more information.

Surgical options

Femoral head ostectomy (FHO):

Femoral head ostectomy is a procedure that involves the removal of the ball part of the joint. The hip joint is naturally a ball and socket joint.

This best favors smaller dogs, because a functioning false joint is formed. Larger dog however, may not be lucky enough to have a false joint formed.

Regardless, FHO is recommended for dogs suffering from severe arthritis, especially if there is dislocation in the hip.

Triple osteotomy

This is a procedure that involves cutting of the pelvis in three areas around the hip joint. To create a firm alignment with the ball (the femoral head), the bone is twisted or rotated.

The bone is then fixed back to that the joint moves as it should without pain or looseness. This procedure should be performed only in dogs suffering from joint arthritic changes, and in younger dogs.

Total hip replacement (THR)

Total hip replacement is the replacement of the hip joint with an artificial socket and ball. This balls and sockets are mostly made of stainless steels and plastic, and are then attached to the femur and pelvic region to replace abnormal or deformed joints.

The procedure can help improve mobility in dogs and it guarantees a pain-free use of the hips. Nonetheless, this is only an option for patients that aren’t responding to other treatment options.

Preventing hip dysplasia in puppies

Studies have proven that the major causes of hip dysplasia is a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. Hip dysplasia is known to be a condition that is inherited, and unfortunately, the genetics of the disease is very complicated.

Environmental factors that could trigger hip dysplasia may include over feeding and too much exercise. These factors can predispose dogs -especially puppies-, to develop the disease.

Since the inheritance of hip dysplasia hasn’t been fully understood, some questions remain unanswered. Nevertheless, there are practical steps that may ensure control over this condition.

1. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) are in charge of a scheme (Canine Hip & Elbow Dysplasia Scheme), where dogs X-rays are examined and scored by specialists. It can be difficult to detect if a dog is HD free, but the objective is to ensure your dog, no matter the breed, passes the examination.

This helps to minimize the chances of your dog experiencing HD.

The steps taken to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia is as follows;

  • Your pet has to be over a year old and radiography can be performed by your veterinary surgeon.
  • Anesthetic is required so that plates are correctly positioned.
  • X-rays are then sent to the Australian Veterinary Association for assessment where a score is recorded and report is given.
  • It’s worst for the elbows and hips if the score is high.

2. It may help greatly to inquire if the dog or the parents of the dog(s) you are getting have been radiographed and what their scores are.

If this step wasn’t taken, you may want to check in with the breeder to know if the information could be delivered to you.

However, since hereditary isn’t the only factor that can cause hip dysplasia, it is very possible for a parent dog with no history of hip dysplasia to produce puppies with the condition.

Dieting and exercising in growing dogs

It is being noticed that fast growing dogs are more prone to developing hip dysplasia. Specialists recommend giving a specially formulated puppy meal of dogs with higher risk of hip dysplasia, to slow down their growth.

They would definitely reach their genetic physical size, but not at a rapid pace. Excessive exercise should be avoided in growing pups. When too much jumping and running occurs, it magnifies traces of deformity in the shape of the hip joint.

It is unnecessary to handle your puppy like it is disabled, but progressive running and jumping can cause more harm to your pet’s hip joint.

Taking care of dogs with hip dysplasia

There are few things you can do to help your pet with hip dysplasia;

  1. Immediately seek professional advice if you suspect your dog has hip dysplasia. This helps to reduce arthritic changes that may arise as if the condition worsens.
  2. Regulate the weight of your dog. Obese dogs are at higher risk of developing hip dysplasia. Discuss with your vet for best diet plan.
  3. Only moderate exercise for your dog is required. Avoid excessive exercise for your dog.

Is your dog suffering from hip dysplasia? How have you been treating it? What breed of dog do you have that has the condition? Share with us in the comments.

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