Hip dysplasia is one of the most common yet very critical conditions among dogs. It happens when the ball and socket of the hip joint didn’t grow properly. This laxity of the joint can lead to intense pain and mobility problems. Severe hip dysplasia in dogs may lead some canines to completely become immobile on their rear legs.
Although it’s a life-changing condition, pet owners can reduce the symptoms of hip dysplasia. With the right care, dog owners can delay the onset of the condition.
What causes hip dysplasia?
Genetics is the leading factor that causes hip dysplasia. Still, other conditions and aspects may increase a dog’s predisposition to developing such a condition.
Most cases of hip dysplasia are hereditary and it’s most common among large breeds. If your dog was proven to have a hereditary case of hip dysplasia, the vet may recommend that your pooch be spayed or neutered.
Aside from that, the excessive growth rate is also a culprit. This is directly related to a dog’s diet where it consumes too much protein and calcium than what the dog needs.
Also, the likes of excessive weight, poor nutrition, and improper exercise will amplify the genetic predisposition of the canine.
Dogs with other orthopedic conditions like osteoarthritis can cause hip dysplasia as a secondary condition.
In this video, Dr. Jones tells us more about hip dysplasia and how dogs develop it:
Signs and symptoms
Dogs can show signs of hip dysplasia at a very young age, starting at 4 months. Still, some would grow older before exhibiting symptoms of the condition.
Take note that the symptoms of this condition will vary depending on the extent of the hip dysplasia and the dog’s age. Generally, you’d want to watch out for the following tell-tale signs:
-Looseness on the hip joint area
-Reluctance or whimpering when running, jumping, and climbing elevated areas
-Loss of muscle mass on the thighs
-Enlargement of shoulder muscles as the front legs try to compensate for the rear legs
-Stiffness on the hind legs
Take note that some of these symptoms can also denote a different injury. I highly suggest that you consult with a veterinarian the moment you observe something unusual on your dog. Changes in gait and activity level should be immediate concerns.
Not sure if your dog has hip dysplasia? This video lists all the possible symptoms you need to watch out for:
What breeds are at risk?
Generally, large breeds are more likely to develop or inherit hip dysplasia from its parents. Still, this doesn’t mean smaller breeds are no longer susceptible to this condition. It might be less common but small and medium breeds can develop hip dysplasia.
Dogs with very active lifestyles have an increased risk to hip dysplasia as well. According to the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals, the following breeds are some of the most susceptible to hip dysplasia:
-Neapolitan Mastiff. Around 51% of this breed has a form of hip dysplasia.
-St. Bernard. About 49% of St. Bernards have a hip dysplasia condition
-Otterhound. 49% of Otterhounds are suffering from some kind of hip dysplasia.
On the other hand, the likes of Borzois and Greyhounds are found to be the least susceptible to hip dysplasia. Still, these breed specifications don’t guarantee that your pooch may or may not have hip dysplasia. Again, it’s a combination of genetics and other external factors.
How to diagnose hip dysplasia
The diagnosis of hip dysplasia starts with a visit to your dog’s vet. A physical exam will be performed to rule out other possible hip condition.
Take note that it’s your responsibility as the owner to spot if your dog is experiencing discomfort. Try touching or gently massaging your dog’s hind legs. If the pooch exhibit signs of pain, it’s time to send it to a vet.
The first course of diagnosis is manipulating the dog’s legs. The vet will try to spot the looseness of the joints and for possible decreased range of motion.
Bloodwork may also be included in the diagnosis to identify if your dog is suffering from other joint diseases. It’s best to present the vet with your dog’s health history for a faster and more accurate diagnosis.
It will also let the veterinarian diagnose if a previous injury triggered the condition. A different approach will apply to your dog if this is the case.
The initial diagnosis will be confirmed by an X-ray examination. The radiographs of your dog’s hips will be checked for hip dysplasia and the severity of the condition. From there, the dog doctor will recommend treatment options. Some could be non-invasive but other conditions may call for surgical treatments.
In this video, Dr. Anthony Cambridge tells us what to do if we suspect that our dogs have hip dysplasia:
Treatment options for hip dysplasia
When it comes to severe hip dysplasia in dogs, surgical treatments are the usual fixes. Veterinarians or pet surgeons may advise any of these three surgical types:
-Total hip replacement
For canines with severe hip dysplasia, a THR or total hip replacement is the most effective treatment. The entire hip will be replaced with plastic and metal implants. This will restore most hip functions and remove the discomfort of the condition.
Still, your dog will need a lifestyle change. Dogs that underwent THR can no longer experience intense physical activity. This is to avoid any damage to the implants.
Take note that your dog won’t be a candidate for THR unless the severe hip dysplasia is causing persistent pain. If your dog doesn’t feel too much discomfort, other non-invasive treatments will be used to arrest the symptoms.
Also, for your dog to qualify for THR, it should be in good health. A blood test will determine if your pet is ready for the surgery. Also, the canine should be at least 10 months old during the surgical operation.
-Femoral head ostectomy
Femoral head ostectomy or FHO is the process of cutting off the ball of the hip joint to create a false joint. This should reduce the discomfort the dog is feeling. However, it will not restore hip function so your dog will need to have restricted activities.
FHO is usually recommended for smaller dogs or those under 50 pounds of weight. This is because the false joint can only support a small amount of weight. Still, some vets may recommend FHO to larger dogs if proves to be a feasible solution.
Take note that your dog should be healthy too. Also, active dogs tend to do well on FHO than less active dogs. The muscles on the hip area help stabilize the false joint after the operation.
Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO or TPO) is the usual treatment for hip dysplasia to dogs under 10 months old. The surgeon will selectively cut the pelvic bone to improve the ball and socket function of the hip.
DPO has fewer complications and only two cuts will be done on the pelvic bone. Meanwhile, TPO makes the hip easier to rotate.
How much does hip dysplasia surgery cost?
Hip dysplasia surgery will usually cost between $1,700 and $4,500. It can cost less or more depending on the continuing treatment that your dog needs.
THR will usually range from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip. Still, the location of the pet hospital and the experience of the surgeon will impact your total bill.
If you can’t afford such a steep price, you can apply for grants in different organizations. The likes of ASPCA, The Pedigree Foundation, and PetSmart give grants to support pet owners who can’t afford the medical expenses of their pets.
Pet insurance may help, but a lot of providers will usually exclude hip dysplasia in the coverage. This is because the condition is usually genetically acquired.
How to manage the symptoms
After the surgery, you still need to take care of your dog’s condition. Many times, it’s a lifetime condition that will need special care. Also, for dogs that don’t need a surgery or not a good candidate for one, the vet may recommend any of the following to reduce the discomfort.
NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the pain or discomfort your pooch is experiencing. Make sure that you only give your dog what the vet prescribes. It can be a form of corticosteroid or an aspirin.
I discourage self-medicating your dog, especially that NSAIDs have specific contraindications. Also, there are special veterinary NSAIDs that have the right dosage for your pooch.
Dogs with kidney or liver diseases need a special prescription. Take note that improper consumption of NSAIDs can cause intestinal bleeding among dogs.
For dogs with hip dysplasia, weight management is a crucial step to reduce the pressure on the hips. The extra pounds will only worsen the discomfort and pain your dog is feeling.
However, it can be challenging to reduce the weight of your dog once the operation is finished. The key here is to watch the diet of your dog. Reducing the amount of food it consumes in line with the veterinarian’s prescription is the first step.
Aside from cutting back on calories, glucosamine is an important addition to your dog’s diet. Glucosamine supports joint health which will reduce any risk of orthopedic problems.
-Using joint fluid modifiers
Joint fluid modifiers are usually given to dogs with arthritis. It can also be used as a treatment for the discomfort brought by hip dysplasia.
Take note that joint fluid modifiers won’t heal hip dysplasia but it can be a big help in easing the symptoms.
Physical therapy can be done to restore the hip function of your pooch after surgery. Also, this can be done to improve the gait of your dog while reducing the discomfort of the condition.
Some dogs get a wheelchair attached to their rear. This will serve as their artificial legs which will let them run or walk without taxing the loose hip joint.
Also, a dog wheelchair will reduce the strain placed on the front legs that compensate on the tenderness of the hind legs.
-Changes in physical activity
Canines with hip dysplasia need to reduce its physical activity. This can be a challenge for breeds with very active personalities. Your vet can recommend other activities that will not tax the hip joint.
Also, you should reduce the exercise of your dog, especially on hard surfaces. Some vets would recommend hydrotherapy so your dog can still get enough physical activity.
Regular care is needed so your dog will remain healthy and pain-free. As a start, I recommend that you give your dog an orthopedic bed. This will reduce the pressure on their joints, especially on the hip.
If you have other dogs at home, you have to watch out for dog fights that may compromise your pet’s health, especially after the surgery.
Ways to prevent hip dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is rarely preventable. Still, you can reduce the risk of your dog by practicing the following tips. These are simple changes yet it can make a big difference in your dog’s health. No matter what, don’t forget that there’s no substitute for the diagnosis of a veterinarian.
A diet rich in glucosamine and chondroitin is ideal for growing dogs. Still, watch out for the protein and calcium level. Too much of these food components can lead to overgrowth – a culprit to hip dysplasia.
-Getting the dog from a responsible breeder
If you’re just getting a new pup, make sure that you’re dealing with a responsible breeder. Also, ask for a certification that the dog is free from any health problems, including hip dysplasia.
-Regular veterinarian check-ups
Regular visits to the vet will help you diagnose hip dysplasia even before it causes intense pain to your dog. This will also let the vet administer immediate treatment to improve your dog’s quality of life.
Severe hip dysplasia in dogs can be managed so your dog can still have a comfortable life. My suggestions here are just some of the things you can do. Whatever happens, your dog’s veterinarian will provide the best treatment for your dog. Even if it will cost a lot, nothing beats professional care for your beloved pet.