Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Uncomfortable but Manageable
7 July, 2015
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Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but some breeds are more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds. Large breeds, such as the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Labrador retriever and German Shepherd are most commonly affected.  It is rare for smaller breed dogs to have the condition.   Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition resulting from an improperly formed hip joint. Because the joint is loose, the dog’s leg bone moves around too much, causing painful wear and tear.

Hip Dysplasia symptoms can go from mild to severe


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, if he seems hesitant to exercise, stand on his hind legs or climb stairs, or if he’s limping or bunny-hopping, a visit to the vet is in order.  Some of the more obvious symptoms are difficulty in getting up; your dog’s reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs, and hobbling.


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Hip Dysplasia can start as a puppy


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 up at all until a dog has reached geriatric years. In many cases, though, the condition becomes visible in dogs in their middle or later years.


How to determine if your dog has hip dysplasia


If you notice any of the symptoms above, it is important to take your dog to your veterinarian for an x-ray.  Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. Inflammation due to joint disease is usually noted in the complete blood count.


As part of determining the physical symptoms, your veterinarian will also need a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and any possible incidents or injuries that might have contributed to your dog’s symptoms. Any information you have on your dog’s parentage will be helpful as well.


Treatment for hip dysplasia


Because hip dysplasia is caused by an inherited defect, there are no products that can prevent its development. There are several surgical options, including a complete hip replacement. However, a combination of healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, exercise, massage, warm and dry sleeping areas, joint supplements, anti-inflammatories and pain-relieving medication can help

manage the condition. Your vet will help you with a daily pain-relieving program that is right for your dog.


Short, flat walks and mild exercise are usually the recommend for dogs with hip dysplasia


As always, you should consult your veterinarian about a good exercise program for your dog. Walking and moderate running can help strengthen the muscles around the joint. Your vet may recommend that you try a few short walks each day and be sure to let your dog set the pace. As a general rule, it’s smart to avoid jumping or running for long distances. If you can, consider letting your dog swim for exercise as swimming is excellent for the muscles surrounding his joints.


Hip Dysplasia can sometimes be treated without surgery


Your dog might be treated on an outpatient basis as long as he or she does not require surgery. The decision for whether your dog will undergo surgery will depend on your dog’s size, age, and intended function (i.e., whether your dog is a working dog, as many large breeds tend to be). It will also depend on the severity of joint looseness, degree of osteoarthritis, your veterinarian’s preference for treatment and your budget.


A total hip replacement is done in mature dogs that are not responding well to medical therapy and that are suffering from severe osteoarthritis. In this surgery the ball of the hip joint is removed, leaving muscles to act as the joint.


Weight control is extremely important in dogs with bad hips


Weight control is an important aspect of recovery and is recommended to decrease the pressure applied to the painful joint as the dog moves. You and your veterinarian will need to work together to minimize any weight gain associated with reduced exercise during recovery.  Further, special diets designed for rapidly growing large-breed dogs may decrease the severity of hip dysplasia.  It’s always important for dogs that are prone to hip dysplasia to keep their weight in a normal range to avoid undue pressure on their hips.



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