Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a common disease in veterinary medicine and one of those ailments that can be devastating for a dog owner. Understandably, some first-time dog owners may want to know about this disease, and the dog breeds most prone to it. It’s good to be ready.
When you’re ready with good information and knowledge of the disease, you stand a better chance of providing sufficient care if your dog does develop hip dysplasia. So, let’s learn a few things.
What dog breeds are most commonly affected by hip dysplasia?
Dog breeds that are most commonly affected by hip dysplasia are larger-sized. This includes Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Rottweilers, American Staffordshire terriers, bulldogs, and mastiffs. Experts think that these large dog breeds are more susceptible because of their big body mass index, or BMI.
However, any dog can develop hip dysplasia because this disease is after all genetic. And also, such factors as improper nutrition and weight, escalated growth rate, hormonal imbalance, and improper exercising may increase the risks of hip dysplasia for a dog carrying the gene.
How does Hip Dysplasia come about?
According to Tammy Hunter, DVM, hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint and ball grow at unequal rates.
So, a bit of canine biology: the hip joint and socket are meant to fit like a glove. So, they should grow at equal rates to make that possible.
However, for a dog carrying the gene, these two parts do not grow uniformly when the dog is young. In most cases, it is the socket that has not grown deep enough to accommodate the hip joint as it should.
So, the joint becomes loose, and the dog develops degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis – which Hunter says is “the body’s attempt to stabilize the loose hip joint.”
This means that the body creates a hard bony material in the joint so that it can try and stabilize the joint. However, this may make things worse by further altering the fit of the joint.
Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia
CHD can be spotted through the following symptoms:
1. Weakness and pain in the hind legs.
2. A “click” sound when walking. The walk may also be wobbly.
3. The dog is reluctant to rise from a lying or sitting position.
4. Limping or having an abnormal gait.
5. Unwilling to climb up a set of stairs.
6. The space between the hips increases in width.
Tip: These symptoms may typically present themselves when the dog is about one or two years old. However, there are outliers – dogs who present with these symptoms when they are just a few months old.
How is hip dysplasia in dogs diagnosed?
In dogs, hip dysplasia is detected and diagnosed through three methods: physical exam, blood work, and radiograph, or X-ray scan.
First, the physical exam may be quick and will reveal if there’s anything to worry about. The vet usually manipulates your dog’s hind legs, checking for any grinding, reduced range of motion, and pain that the dog may be feeling.
Experienced vets may get a good idea of the presence of hip dysplasia through the physical exam but the other methods are still important. Why? You may ask.
Well, the blood work shows signs of inflammation in the joint area thanks to the comprehensive blood count. In this case, it’s good to put the blood work results in context.
So, the veterinarian may likely ask for the dog’s medical history along with any possible injuries that may have suffered.
The dog’s parentage also becomes important because hip dysplasia is hereditary.
Ultimately, it is the radiograph or X-ray that provides the definitive proof of hip dysplasia. An x-ray scan will not only confirm or disprove the presence of CHD, but it will also show the severity of the condition.
Armed with the findings from the three methods, the vet will be better placed to give a good course of action in terms of treatment options.
Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs
There are a number of treatment options for CHD that depend on the severity of the condition in your dog among other factors:
1. Drugs and supplements
There are several drug and supplements combinations that your vet may recommend based on your dog’s hip dysplasia, his/her general health, and age.
For instance, most vets administer glucosamine chondroitin sulfate and omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements. And then for those dogs with severe CHD that causes intense pain, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections are administered regularly.
Other drugs usually used in treatment include Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). For instance, meloxicam is a good drug with minimal side effects. Nonetheless, these drugs and supplements should be administered by a vet.
The vet will likely have to try out several NSAIDs and supplements in different amounts to come to an appropriate and effective dosage for your dog.
2. Physical therapy
Physical therapy is proven to decrease the discomfort that follows CHD while improving the dog’s general quality of life.
One of the reasons why physical therapy is recommended as part of any treatment plan is the fact that hip dysplasia is worsened by excess weight as it puts pressure on the malformed hip joints. So, the bulky fella should be encouraged to lose a few pounds, and physical therapy can help with that.
Sometimes, NSAIDs and supplements intervention does not work as expected. And in that case, surgery may be considered as an alternative treatment.
According to AKC.org, these surgeries may include:
a. Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
Used for puppies under 10 months of age. The surgeon cuts the pelvic bone and rotates the segments to improve the layout of the ball and socket joint.
b. Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
Applied for puppies and mature dogs. In this surgery, the surgeon cuts off the head and neck of the femur. This procedure is aimed at reducing pain because the bones of the joint are no longer touching.
Afterward, the surrounding muscles and developing scar tissue create a “false joint” which supports the area and the pressure is transferred to the pelvis rather than the leg.
Typically, FHO is a last resort option for pain relief especially for dogs that have severe hip dysplasia but do not qualify for the THR procedure for one reason or another.
c. Total Hip Replacement (THR)
Hailed as the “most effective surgical treatment” for CHD, this surgery involves a hip replacement where the whole joint is replaced with metal and plastic implants.
4. Alternative interventions
Some alternative medical interventions such as acupuncture, stem cell treatments, traditional Chinese medicine, and class 4 laser have been applied in treating hip dysplasia.
However, the jury’s still out on these measures – there are varying results for each measure.
Nonetheless, if you’re up for it, you can discuss some of these options as alternatives.
How to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs
As you’ve known already, hip dysplasia is tough to beat because it’s in the genetic make-up of dogs.
However, there are measures you can take to limit the onset of hip dysplasia:
1. Provide the right diet.
Dog owners want their puppy to grow big and it is only natural to want this. Bulkiness especially for the larger dog breeds is an appealing quality.
Nevertheless, dog owners should be careful about how they get there. Excessive growth or “growing too big too fast” can cause the onset of hip dysplasia when the socket and ball of the joint have different growth patterns.
Meanwhile, the increased weight doesn’t help and in fact, only puts more pressure on this malformed hip joint.
That is why controlling your dog’s diet is important.
2. Good breeding
Hip dysplasia may result from poor breeding strategies. Therefore, it is important to find breeders who pay attention to hip health, for instance by doing hip radiographs.
A PennHIP certification is a good indicator of hip health and the OFA certification is an established mark of good hip health as well. Both of these are things you can look at when deciding on the pooch to welcome into your life.
3. Control the environment
It is a good idea to avoid activities that require your dog to jump or change direction abruptly or stop suddenly. In susceptible dogs with early signs of hip dysplasia, these activities can cause further damage to the affected hip joint region.
Taking care of a dog with hip dysplasia
If your dog has hip dysplasia, you can apply some of these tips to provide some comfort and ease the pain:
i. Massage the muscles around the hip joints in a circular motion with your fingertips for about ten minutes. Check to see how your dog takes this. If he/she is irritated, then quit it and try a different idea.
ii. Touch the affected region with a warm water bottle twice a day for 15 minutes each time.
iii. Provide some prescribed painkillers from your vet to ease the pain.
iv. Make sure the dog stays away from damp, chilly weather as much as possible.
v. Lay a carpet down on a slippery floor and use a carpeted ramp for the staircase – this will ease your dog’s movements because dogs with CHD have a tough time moving about on a slippery surface.
vi. Provide a good, firm orthopedic bed for the dog to sleep and relax in.
Hip dysplasia is one of those diseases that are unpreventable. It is in the genes and it can affect any size of dogs. However, large dogs are usually more affected.
Hip dysplasia shouldn’t spell doom and gloom though. There are several treatment options to consider. The quality of life in addition to medical and financial factors are important to consider when deciding on a treatment plan.
Ultimately, involving your vet is extremely important. Your vet will provide you with good, solid advice on how to maneuver CHD in a way that helps your life as well as that of your pooch.