Hip Dysplasia in dogs, a condition all to commonly seen in clinics by veterinarians, and a condition dreaded by pet owners all too familiar with the disease. Seen most often in large breed dogs, hip dysplasia in dogs is a developmental, genetic, musculoskeletal disease that can drastically reduce the quality of life in a dog, and can be extremely agonizing experience for a pet parent to watch their dog suffer through. Thankfully, with greater client education nowadays and improvements in preventive and proactive treatments, our dogs affected by hip dysplasia are able to maintain longer, healthier lives. But first things first, what exactly is hip dysplasia in dogs.
What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a developmental hereditary abnormality in the growth of the hip joint. The hip, a ball and socket joint, normally consists of a round, smooth, cartilage covered femoral head (ball) and a smooth, concave, cartilage covered acetabulum (socket). In hip dysplasia, irregularities in development can cause the ball to be irregularly shaped and/or the socket to be flattened or deformed. This causes extra friction and abnormal amount of contact between the structures, causing the cartilage and bone structures within the joint to rub, grind, and wear out over time. Understandably, these movements result in severe deterioration (osteoarthritis), pain, and even loss of function over time.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a disease that is largely considered to be hereditary, which is why we see the condition most often in large breed dogs (Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, etc…), although it is possible to see hip dysplasia in small breed dogs as well, just much less common. Many other factors may come into play in exacerbating the disease such as excessive growth, nutrition, weight gain, and overuse. That is why it is important to purchase large breed specific puppy food when these large breed dogs are growing, so that they are meeting specific nutrition requirements to prevent excessive growth that may lead to these musculoskeletal disorders arising from uncoordinated bone and cartilage growth. Additionally, obesity and overexertion in dogs, just like with people, can put unwarranted stress on the hip joints, worsening the hip dysplasia condition. Maintaining proper exercise regimen without overexertion is important in joint health in these dogs.
How to Tell if your Dog has Hip Dysplasia?
Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs can start as early as four months old if severe, however many pets start developing signs as the age and start to develop osteoarthritis. These signs arise from painful joints, difficulty moving and general stiffness. Watch for:
- Increased stiffness and pain when getting up
- Decreased range of motion of the hind limbs
- Difficulty rising, jumping, climbing stairs
- Decreased overall physical activity
- Decreased muscle mass in the hind limbs
- Increased swaying and narrow stance
- Abnormal ‘bunny hopping’ gait
- Limping and lameness
How is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs Diagnosed?
At your regularly scheduled veterinary checkups, please bring up potential signs of hip dysplasia in dogs that you are seeing at home. Working together with your veterinarian is the best way to diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs early. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, manipulate the hind limbs and hip joints for stiffness, grinding, pain, and reduced range of motion. X-rays will then be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, determine the severity of the disease, and help point us in the best direction for treatment.
How to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Treatment options for hip dysplasia range from simple lifestyle changes to surgical correction, determining factors may include patient lifestyle, severity of disease, financial considerations, pre-existing medical conditions, and age of presentation.
Most conservative (non-surgical) management of hip dysplasia in dogs may entail exercise reduction and weight loss to decrease wear on the hip joint, such as nutraceuticals and supplements (glucosamine, omega 3 supplementation, MSM, chondroitin, green lipped mussel etc…), joint fluid modifiers, and anti-inflammatory pain medication. Medical management in this fashion does not reverse the disease or arthritis, but can control the pain and provide improvement in quality of life and happiness.
If your pet is a good candidate for surgery, there are a number of effective options available, and the choices will depend on the age of the pet, financial considerations, and severity of disease. These include the following:
- Double or triple pelvic osteotomy
- Femoral head ostectomy
- Total hip replacement
Ask your family veterinarian which option is best suited for you and your pet’s needs.
How to Help Dogs with Hip Dysplasia Long Term
With proper medical management and surgical treatment options nowadays, many pets diagnosed with hip dysplasia can go on to lead long, happy, full lives. We recommend supplements that contain glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, green lipped mussel that have shown effectiveness in slowing down the progression of the potentially debilitating osteoarthritis that pets diagnosed with hip dysplasia often suffer from such as Wellnergy Pets Hip & Joint Care. Or even a Holistic Herbal Joint Supplement such as Qbow Hip & Joint.
If your pet is starting to show worsening signs of hip dysplasia, please visit your local veterinarian to ask about how long dogs can live with certain levels of hip dysplasia, or the sad but very real question about when to put down your dog with hip dysplasia if you feel he/she is suffering. In the meantime, the best way to lift your dog with hip dysplasia is by using a towel, and folding it to use it as a sling and supporting the weight of the hip by using it in the area just in front of it.
I hope this blog post helps answers your questions about hip dysplasia in dogs, and gives a bit of insight about the disease from a veterinarian's point of view. Otherwise, if you suspect your dog has the disease, or if you dog has recently been diagnosed with the condition, please take your dog to see a veterinarian.
Feel free to reach out to our team on Facebook, Instagram, E-mail, or in the comments section for any other questions.
About the Author:
Dr. Zonram Liao D.V.M. is a Southern California native, and earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, San Diego before obtaining his veterinary degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is not only a firm believer in the use of supportive care supplements to improve the health and happiness of his patients, but also is a strong advocate of the benefits of preventive care medicine for his patients as well. During his free time, Dr. Liao enjoys spending his time outdoors fishing and hiking, playing basketball, watching movies, cooking, traveling, and trying new foods.