The Most Terrifying Two Words to Large Dog Owners, While Every Breed Should Be Alarmed
Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition resulting from an improperly formed hip joint. This painful condition can drastically reduce a dog’s quality of life, and what’s worse, sometimes it is difficult for owners to observe.
It is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, often seen in large or giant breed dogs, although it can occur in smaller breeds, as well. So whatever breed, you should be alarmed.
What causes hip dysplasia and which breeds are prone to it?
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is affected by factors such as diet, environment, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, and hormones.
As mentioned earlier, this disease is most commonly seen in large or giant breed dogs (generally greater than 50 lbs or 22 kg), including bulldogs, mastiffs, American Staffordshire terriers, St. Bernards, retrievers, and Rottweilers.
However, dogs of all breeds and all sizes are susceptible to this inherited condition, including some small breeds, such as pugs and French bulldogs.
How can I tell if my dog has hip dysplasia?
Some cases of hip dysplasia are so mild there are no symptoms, but if your dog seems
- stiff or sore in the hips when getting up
- hesitant to exercise, stand on its hind legs or climb stairs
- limping or bunny-hopping
- loss of thigh muscle mass
- noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
These signs can be seen in puppies as early as a few months old but are most common in dogs one to two years of age. If the above symptoms showed without getting better in a week, then a visit to the vet is in order.
If left unattended, it can eventually cause lameness and arthritis of the joints.
When do dogs develop hip dysplasia?
Each case is different, depending on the dog. Hip dysplasia can begin to develop in puppies of five months old and worsen as they age-or not show any clinical signs at all until a dog has reached geriatric years. In many cases, though, the condition becomes noticeable in dogs in their middle or later years, as it often takes years of gradual bone degeneration until becoming symptomatic.
How can hip dysplasia be treated?
Each case is different, depending on the dog. First, for the definitive diagnosis of a dog’s hip dysplasia, the vet needs an evaluation, which may include a physical examination, radiographs and manual tests on your dog’s hips.
Then, for the treatment, there are quite a few options.
If your dog’s hip dysplasia is not severe, or if your dog is not a candidate for surgery for medical or financial reasons, then conservative treatment can be applied, that is, nonsurgical approaches. Depending on your dog’s case, the vet may suggest the following:
- Weight reduction to take stress off of the hips
- Exercise restriction, especially on hard surfaces
- Physical therapy
- Joint supplements
- Anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids)
Joint fluid modifiers
If your dog is a good candidate for surgery, then the most common surgeries veterinarians use to treat hip dysplasia in dogs are:
- Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
- Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
Total hip replacement (THR)
Are there any preventative measures for hip dysplasia?
Not all cases of hip dysplasia can be prevented. However, there are some measures that help reduce your dog’s risk of developing this disease.
- Feeding your puppy an appropriate diet
Keeping your dog’s skeletal system healthy should start when your dog is young. As most hip dysplasia conditions are developed from puppyhood, a proper diet will give them a head start on healthy bone and joint development and help prevent the excessive growth that leads to the disease. Keep your puppies at a normal and lean weight during growth, rather than overfed and encouraged to grow too big.
- Providing them appropriate levels of exercise
As your dog grows, proper exercise will help strengthen the muscles around the joints and prevent obesity, which is a major contributing factor to hip dysplasia. Also, obesity causes many other health problems in dogs, so talk to your dog’s veterinarian about a good exercise program.
- Breeder’s health screening
The best way that breeders can prevent hereditary hip dysplasia is to screen their breeding dogs for the disease to ensure that they only breed dogs with hip joints rated normal or higher. And as a prospective owner of a new dog, do your research on the breed of your choice and find a responsible breeder that does the appropriate health screenings. By doing this, you can really save a lot of trouble.
Apart from what mentioned above, massage, warm and dry sleeping areas, joint supplements, and, potentially, prescription veterinary pain-relieving medication can help prevent and manage the condition.
Although hip dysplasia may be torturous for both the owner and the dog, by learning the key facts and preventative measures you can take to deal with it can go a long way toward keeping your dog as comfortable as possible.