Dog Health: Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia
A dog keeping hind legs close together to compensate for weak hips
What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is an orthopedic developmental disorder of dogs affecting the joints of the hips. The joints in a dog's hips are normally conformed in a ''ball and socket'' fashion, where the two parts fit snugly and well into each other. Basically, in a dog affected by hip dysplasia, because of structural defects, the head of the femur does not fit properly in the socket, giving the rise to looseness in the joint, and overtime, cartilage damage. Affected dogs will therefore develop crippling arthritis which tends to be progressive.
Large breed dogs are particularly prone to hip dysplasia. You see it quite often in German shepherds, rottweilers, labrador retreivers, golden retrievers, and mastiffs. Generally, dogs severely affected by the disease will show symptoms of this orthopedic disorders in their first year of life, while mild cases exhibit symptoms later, around 6 to 9 years of age.
Muscle wasting due to chronic hip dysplasia
How Did my Dog Get Hip Dysplasia?
Often dog owners are shocked to learn their dog has developed hip dysplasia. Many even never heard about this disorder before. This orthopedic condition is genetic, meaning it can be passed down from a generation of dogs to another. A good way to up the likeliness of purchasing a puppy not affected by this disorder is to rely on a reputable breeder which OFA tests the parents of the puppy and has done so for generations. Good breeders generally test the hips back to 4 to 5 generations or more.
OFA stands for the ''Ortopedic Foundation for Animals'' and screens x-rays of dog hips giving them a score. Reputable breeders will provide health certificates with proof demonstrating both sire and dam are clear from hip dysplasia and have received at least a passing score of ''Excellent, Good or Fair''. PennHIP is another organization that checks hips and provides scores. Dogs with Borderline, Mild, Moderate, and Severe scores should not be bred. Unfortunately, back yard breeders typically do not health test their breeding pool for hip dysplasia yielding a high range of dogs with orthopedic problems.
However, it is important to consider that at times, even the best litters may yield puppies with hip dysplasia. There are cases where generations of breeding have yielded puppies free of hip dysplasia and then one day, out of the blue, an unfortunate owner gets the one with this orthopedic disease.
Other contributing factors are excessive growth, exercise, and nutrition.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of hip dysplasia may arise early in severe cases, or later in milder cases. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can be confused with other orthopedic disorders and this is why x-rays are recommended. Following are some symptoms suggesting hip dysplasia:
- Decreased activity
- Difficulty getting up from laying down
- Rear leg pain
- Reluctance to use stairs to go up
- Reluctance to jump up or stand on hind limbs
- Reduced range of motion
- Bunny-hopping gait when running
- Pain from manipulation of the hip (extension and bending)
- Crepitus, a crunching/grating feeling when moving the leg in the hip join
- Wasting of the rear leg muscles in chronic cases
Normal hips in dog
Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Upon being taken to the vet, a dog with suspected hip dysplasia will be carefully examined. The veterinarian will likely ask the owner to have the dog walk and trot back and forth so to examine the gait. The veterinarian may then extend and bend the rear leg repeatedly to check for signs of pain or presence of crepitus, a crunching sensation felt when moving the leg into the joint. X-rays will ultimately rule out or confirm the presence of hip dysplasia.
Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Treatment for hip dysplasia varies depending on gravity, dog's age and other factors. Following are some treatment plans.
- Weight Loss
For dogs on the heavier side, a weight loss regimen may work wonders since every extra pound plays a role in putting strain on the hips. Being a bit on the slim side can work wonders. Avoid feeding high-energy diets in large breed puppies.
You want to avoid strenuous exercise, therefore moderation is key. Swimming is a great sport your dog will enjoy and that will help maintain good muscle mass and tone, explains veterinarian Nicholas Trout. Swimming also keeps weight off the joints.
A glucosamine supplement is safe to give and may help a dog suffering from hip dysplasia. Results are generally seen after 6-8 weeks of treatment.One of the more popular supplements containing glucosamine is Dasuquin.
Your vet may prescribe non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications however, you must be aware of potential side effects. Do your research well. Never give over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, these are toxic in dogs. Aspirin may be given short term, following the vet's advice and monitoring for stomach problems.
Your vet may recommend surgery depending on the level of severity of hip dysplasia. Triple pelvic ostectomy is an option before arthritis has set in. Total hip replacement can be a very successful surgery when carried out by highly trained vets at referral practices . Another option is a femoral head ostectomy and DARthroplasty which is a still fairly new procedure.
OTHER HELPFUL PRODUCTS
Recommended for those that need maximum joint and connective tissue support. Glyco-Flex III represents stage III of our comprehensive stage of life program for joint support. It's also recommended by veterinarians for geriatric and working dogs as well as a follow-up to orthopedic surgery.
The gait of a dog suffering from hip dysplasia
For further reading
- Dog arthritis home remedies
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