Regardless of age, size, or breed dogs are susceptible to a joint condition known as hip dysplasia. While hip dysplasia is more common in certain breeds, almost any mammal including humans, cats, and dogs can suffer from hip dysplasia. Nevertheless, pet owners with large breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards should be especially concerned with hip dysplasia as the disease tends to affect these larger breeds the most.
Hip dysplasia results from abnormal structure of the hip joint that causes the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that support the hip to degrade. After time, the leg bone and hip bone become separated leading to a range of symptoms, most notably osteoarthritis. Puppies as young as 5 months old may experience symptoms associated with hip dysplasia in the most severe cases, while most cases of hip dysplasia tend to present in the middle to later years of your dog’s life.
The most prevalent symptom of the condition is pain in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia progresses to the point where even normal day-to-day activities become nearly impossible and left untreated hip dysplasia will rob a dog of his ability to walk. Other common symptoms of hip dysplasia include:
- Altered gait while walking or running
- Inability or difficulty climbing
- Severe joint pain
For the most part, hip dysplasia in dogs must be treated surgically. While there are some non-surgical treatments that focus on alleviating pain, all dogs suffering from hip dysplasia will likely require surgery at some point in order to maintain normal activities. There are several surgical procedures indicated to treat hip dysplasia depending on the age of the dog and the severity of the condition. Still, as a dog owner, there are things you can do to prevent or put off surgery. Most importantly, you need to help your dog maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and keep warm.
Dogs, especially large dogs, are prone to this degenerative disease of the pelvic joint. Hip dysplasia in dogs can cause extreme lameness and pain in larger dogs and while the condition can be quite disabling, there are many new surgical treatments that often restore function to the affected joints. Hip dysplasia happens when the top of the femur does not fit into the hip joint properly and this problem usually presents in fairly young dogs. Hip dysplasia puts extra stress on the hip joint and can cause the joint capsule to rip.
Older animals with hip dysplasia are often suffering from osteoarthritis causing the cartilage in the joint to break down. The femur and the joint itself may have both degenerated in older dogs with hip dysplasia causing the characteristic lameness and pain. When detected early, hip dysplasia may be corrected by a triple pelvic osteotomy wherein the pelvis is cut into 3 pieces and realigned so the femur and hip joint fit together properly. Generally speaking, dogs with hip dysplasia that have undergone triple pelvic osteotomy will require 6 to 8 weeks for recovery so that the bones in the hip heal well.
In more severe cases of hip dysplasia, dogs may need to have a femoral head and neck osteotomy wherein the head and neck of the femur are completely removed. In this case, the muscles of the hind leg strengthen to form a so-called muscular joint. While dogs that have undergone femoral head and neck osteotomy may lose some mobility, they can function normally in day-to-day life. After this surgery, dogs should get moving right away and will almost always require some post-operative physical therapy.
Finally, some dog owners will consider a total hip replacement for dogs with serious hip dysplasia. The procedure is expensive but can restore normal hip function. In this treatment, the head of the femur is removed and replaced with a stainless steel implant. Again, recovery from hip replacement surgery will require 6 to 8 weeks.
Hip dysplasia is a relative common hereditary disease that affects the hip joints in dogs. This arthritic disease is more prevalent in particular breeds like rottweilers, German shepherds, and golden retrievers. Characterized by mild to severe pain and discomfort, hip dysplasia can have a significant impact on the quality of life of your dog. While the early stages of this condition are often manageable by dogs, as the disease progresses the pain associated with the dog hip dysplasia can be so severe that it is debilitating.
Logic would have it that hip dysplasia, being a kind of arthritis, is only seen in older dogs but symptoms of this condition can even appear in dogs less than a year old. Still, the disease is progressive and serious symptoms are usually seen in middle-aged and older dogs. Most pet owners will notice changes in their dog’s behavior due to the pain associated with hip dysplasia. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain when moving after a period of rest
- Abnormal gate
- Abnormal stance
- Avoidance of stairs/climbing
If you’re concerned that your dog might be suffering from hip dysplasia, you’ll want to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Diagnosis usually involves some x-rays and simple observance of your dog’s behavior.
Currently, there are a range of hip dysplasia treatments which focus on ameliorating pain or even reconstructing the joint. Analgesic drugs, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) control the pain but surgical procedures like total hip replacement are becoming more common. Moreover, veterinarians today are impressed by the benefits of nutritional supplements that contain glucosamine which is a vital component of joint healing. Not only can glucosamine supplements promote joint healing but they also seem to prevent damage while reducing the severity of the arthritic symptoms. Finally, ensure that your dog leads a healthy lifestyle including appropriate diet and exercise as joints in overweight dogs tend to degenerate more quickly.