Canine Hip Dysplasia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Canine Hip Dysplasia
Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

“Puppies born to parents with healthy hips
are less likely to develop the condition themselves.”

Canine hip dysplasia is a common cause of hind end lameness in large breed dogs, such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers. Owners of these animals should understand the disease’s causes, symptoms and treatment to help their pets deal with the condition if it arises.

Overview/Snapshot of the Disease

Hip dysplasia is a disorder that is caused by abnormal development of the hip joint. The hip consists of a “ball” at the top of the femur (i.e., the upper leg bone) that fits within a cup shaped socket in the pelvis.

In a normal hip, the ball can rotate freely but is held firmly in place by a snuggly fitting socket. Dogs with hip dysplasia have sockets that are flatter than normal, which decreases the stability of the joint. In effect, the ball can “rattle around” in the socket, and this leads to the early development of painful osteoarthritis.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Because hip dysplasia is by definition a disease of development, it can affect dogs of all ages. In severe cases, owners may start to observe symptoms when their pets are only a few months old.

More typically, clinical signs do not develop until significant wear and tear has further damaged the joint and arthritis has set in. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • Pain and stiffness in one or both hind legs
  • Limping
  • Difficulty rising and/or jumping
  • Trouble climbing stairs
  • A rolling motion to the hind end when walking
  • “Bunny hopping? with the hind legs instead of moving one foot forward and then the next
  • A decrease in activity
  • Lost muscle tone in the hind end

Causes of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Genetics plays a large role in determining whether or not a dog will develop this condition. Unfortunately, the way in which the genes linked to hip dysplasia are inherited is extremely complicated, so determining which animals should be bred and whether or not a particular individual is at risk for the disease is not easy.

Improper nutrition is another contributing factor. Puppies that are overfed or receive too much calcium in their diets are at an increased risk.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Treatment

Many dog owners mistake the symptoms of hip dysplasia with normal changes associated with aging. Your veterinarian can determine whether or not your dog has this canine disease by performing a physical exam, watching your dog in motion, manipulating your dog’s hips to look for abnormal motion or a painful reaction, and taking x-rays.

Treatment depends on a dog’s age and the severity of his condition. Dogs between the ages of 8 and 18 months that meet certain criteria may be candidates for a triple pelvic osteotomy surgery, which realigns the hip joint and reduces the amount of arthritis that would otherwise develop.

Once significant arthritis sets in, most dogs are treated with pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, supplements that promote healthy cartilage and joint fluid, weight loss (if appropriate), and physical therapy. Acupuncture, cold lasers, and additional treatments may also be recommended.

If a dog cannot be kept comfortable with medical management, surgeries that either remove the top of the femur or replace the joint with an artificial hip should be considered. Other surgeries may also be considered depending on the dog?s condition.

Prevention of Canine Hip Dysplasia

To reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in at-risk breeds, dogs should have their hips evaluated, before breeding, using specialized types of x-rays that are available through many veterinarians. Puppies born to parents with healthy hips are less likely to develop the condition themselves.

Owners of growing dogs should also make sure to keep their pets slim, and to feed them an appropriate amount of a food designed especially for large breed puppies.

Consulting Veterinarian: Jennifer Coates, DVM

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