Eldery German Shepherd with hip dysplasiaHip dysplasia in dogs is a condition in which the hips are not formed correctly due to the abnormal looseness between the highest part of the thigh bone (ball/femoral head) and the socket (acetabulum) that form the hip. This condition can affect all breeds of dogs, but larger breeds are most likely to suffer because they weigh more. Commonly affected breeds include the Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever and the German Shepherd.

Causes

Hip dysplasia in dogs is caused by a number of both genetic and environmental factors such as:

  • Genetic susceptibility for hip laxity or looseness
  • Nutritional factors
  • Obesity
  • Pelvic injuries
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Poor development of hind limb muscles
  • Too much exercise

Symptoms

Common symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty rising from a sitting or lying position
  • Swaying gait (the rear end moves back and forth unnaturally)
  • Back legs are closer to each other than the front legs
  • Reluctance to climb stairs and furniture
  • Walking stiffly

As the conditions gets worse, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
  • Persistent hind limb lameness
  • Painful arthritis
  • Feeling of discomfort when touched
  • Unexplained aggressive behavior
  • Enlargement of the shoulder muscles as more weight is on the front legs
  • Hip dislocation

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will carry out a complete physical exam in you cherished dog, including a blood chemical profile, which comprises of compete blood count, urinalysis an electrolyte panel. While conducting the examination, the veterinarian will also ask you to tell him/her about the history of your dog’s health onset of symptoms and any possible injuries or incidents that may have contributed to the symptoms. He will also ask about your dog’s parentage as there may be a genetic link.

Radiographs (x-rays) play a major role in visualizing the dangerous signs of hip dysplasia. Some of the possible findings may include bilateral Stifle, lumbar vertebral instability, degenerative disease of the spinal cord and other bone diseases.

The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. This is because the longer the condition takes without being diagnosed, the further the degeneration of the joints will occur. So, if you suspect that your dog has this condition or if you have a breed that is more susceptible to the disease, consider taking him/he to a veterinarian for an early diagnosis.

Treatment

There is no complete cure for hip dysplasia in dogs, although there are a number of conservative/outpatient and surgical treatment options that you can use to alleviate the symptoms and improve your dog’s health. If the condition is relatively mild, then you may only need to give your dog suitable medications to help his/her body deal with pain, inflammation and joint wear. If the condition is very serious and cannot be controlled through the use of medications, your veterinarian may recommend surgery.

Conservative/Outpatient Therapy

  1. Weight Control
    If your dog is overweight, weight control will greatly help in the recovery process as it will decrease the pressure applied on the affected area and minimize inflammation. With the help of your veterinarian, you can design a plan to minimize any weight gain.
  2. Pain Relief Medications (analgesics)
    Using suitable pain relief medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will help reduce inflammation and pain. Typical NSAIDs used for treating hip dysplasia include meloxicam (sold as Metacam) and carprofen (sold as Rimadyl).  Other NSAIDs include prednoleucotropin (a combination of prednisolone and cinchophen) and tepoxalin. Since these NSAIDs react differently on different dog breeds, it is important to ask your veterinarian for advice before giving your dog the drugs.
  3. Nutritional Supplements
    Nutritional supplements such as chondroitin sulfate, Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and perna mussels can give your dog’s body additional raw materials for joint repair and protection. More information here.
  4. Labrador Retriever on massage tableMassage
    If you are not an experienced massage therapist, your veterinarian can show you how to massage your dog to help relax stiff muscles and enhance mobility. Keep it in mind that your dog is in pain, so start slowly and build trust.
  5. Exercises
    Low-impact exercises such as jogging, walking and swimming are crucial for building and maintaining muscles. Avoid vigorous exercises such as running, jumping or Frisbee because they place additional pressure on the painful joint.
  6. Soft and Warm Sleeping Area
    The last thing a dog with hip dysplasia needs is sleeping on a hard, cold floor. Even though wood floors and carpets are not bad, your dog will be more comfortable with over-stuffed or padded bedding. Orthopedic foam is also an excellent bedding option.

Surgical Treatments

There are a number of surgical procedures that can be used to treat hip dysplasia. Your veterinarian will make recommendations based on your dog’s age, size or condition. Common forms of surgery include:

  1. Juvenile Public Symphysiodesis Surgery (JPS)
    This procedure is usually performed on young puppies, between the age of 4 and 6 months. It involves cauterizing the growth plates of your dog’s pelvis to improve hip joint stability.
  2. Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
    This procedure is performed on young dogs that are less than 1 year of age. It involves breaking the pelvic bones and realigning the acetebulum and femoral head to correct the femoral head subluxation and restore the weight-bearing surface area. Even though this procedure is relatively expensive as compared to JPS, it is very effective.
  3. Total Hip Replacement
    This technique is very suitable for dogs that have degenerative joint disease caused by chronic hip dysplasia. It involves the removal of the damaged joint and replacing it with a new artificial joint or prosthesis. For a dog to be a candidate for this procedure, he/she must be skeletally mature and have a healthy weight. With the modern micro-prosthetics, there is no minimum or maximum size limit.
    In case both hips require replacement, veterinarians recommend a three-month period of rest between the first and second surgery. Just like the TPO surgery, the total hip replacement is expensive and produces very good results. After the surgery, your dog will feel less pain and become active. However, his/her joint stability and full range of motion will be decreased.
  4. Capsular Neurectomy
    In this procedure, the hip joint capsule is de-nerved to minimize pain in the affected area. This allows your dog to walk or move about with less pain, thus preventing the leg muscles from becoming weak. Both hips can be operated on in one day.
  5. Excision Arthroplasty
    This procedure is performed when the cost of total hip replacement is prohibitive. It involves the removal of the ball of the hip joint, leaving the muscles to serve as the joint. It works best for dogs with good hip musculature and weighing less than 40 pounds.

Prevention

  1. Selective Breeding
    When it comes to preventing hip dysplasia in dogs, researchers agree that selective breeding is crucial. Selectively breeding dogs with excellent hips doesn’t necessarily mean that all of their offspring will be free of hip dysplasia, but they will be at much lower risk of attack as compared to when you breed two dogs with unhealthy hips. If you are looking to purchase a dog that is less likely to be attacked by hip dysplasia, be sure to go to a professional and responsible dog breeder whose dogs have a healthy lineage that can be traced back to about three or four generations.
  2. Nutrition
    It is very important to educate yourself on the nutritional needs of your dog. Be sure to use healthy feeding practices to prevent your pet from becoming overweight. To prevent your dog from becoming overweight, you can use scheduled owner feedings or timed feeders instead of feeding your dog continuously.