What is hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is abnormal development of hips where head of femur does not fit snugly into pelvic socket.
It is associated with abnormal joint structure and a laxity of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the joint. As joint laxity develops, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other.
This separation of the two bones within the joint is called a subluxation, and this causes a drastic change in the size and shape of the articular surfaces.
Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips but due to their genetic make-up (and possibly other factors) the soft tissues that surround the joint develop abnormally causing the subluxation.
Hip dysplasia can affect both the right and/or left hip.
What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?
Dogs of all ages are subject to hip dysplasia and the resultant osteoarthritis.
The symptoms are similar to those seen with other causes of arthritis in the hip. Dogs often walk or run with an altered gait.
They will show stiffness and pain in the rear legs after exercise or first thing in the morning. They may also have difficulty climbing stairs.
In milder cases dogs will warm-up out of the stiffness with movement and exercise. Some dogs will limp and many will become less willing to participate in normal daily activities.
Many owners attribute the changes to normal aging but after treatment is initiated, they are surprised to see a more normal and pain-free gait return. As the condition progresses, most dogs will lose muscle tone and may even need assistance in getting up.
In severe cases, puppies as young as five months will begin to show pain and discomfort during and after exercise. The condition will worsen until even normal daily activities are painful. Without intervention, these dogs may eventually be unable to walk. In most cases, however, the symptoms do not begin to show until the middle or later years in the dog’s life.
What are the risk factors for the development of hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is caused by a subluxation in the hip joint. This creates abnormal wear and erosion of the joint and as a result arthritis and pain develop. The disease process is fairly straightforward; the controversy starts when we try to determine what predisposes animals to contracting the disease.
Genetics: Researchers agree that hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. If a parent has hip dysplasia, then the animal’s offspring are at greater risk for developing hip dysplasia. If there are no carriers of hip dysplasia in a dog’s lineage, then it is highly unlikely he will not contract the disease. If there are genetic carriers, then he may contract the disease.
To greatly reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia selective breeding is the best option, although this will not completely guarantee a reduction.
If you breed two dysplastic dogs, the offspring are much more likely to develop the disease but the offspring will not all have the same level of symptoms or even necessarily show any symptoms. The offspring from these dogs will, however, be carriers and the disease will most likely show up in their offspring in later generations. This is why it can be challenging to eradicate the disease from a breed or specific breeding line.
Exercise: Exercise may be a risk factor. It have been evidenced that dogs that are genetically susceptible to the disease may have an increased incidence of disease if they over-exercised at a young age. But at the same time, we know that dogs with large and prominent leg muscle mass are less likely to contract the disease than dogs with small muscle mass. Exercising and maintaining good muscle mass may actually decrease the incidence of the disease. Moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles, such as running and swimming, is a good option.
Nutrition: The amount of calories a dog consumes and when in the dog’s life those calories are consumed have the biggest impact on whether or not a dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the disease.
Feeding a diet that has too much or too little calcium or other minerals can also have a detrimental effect on the development of the hip joint. However, with today’s choice of complete and balanced dog foods this has become a rare occurrence.
Another factor that may increase the incidence of hip dysplasia is rapid growth in puppies during the ages from three to ten months.
How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?
The diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia is typically made by combining the following: clinical signs of arthritis and pain, a complete physical exam, and x-rays. In addition, the vet may even be able to feel looseness in the joint or may be able to detect pain through extension of the rear leg.
About half of the animals that come in for a determination on the health of their hip joints are intended to be used for breeding. The breeder wants to ensure that the animal is not at great risk for transmitting the disease to his or her offspring.
If you do intend to use your dog to breed, there are different testing methods that can be performed please contact your vet for more information.
How is hip dysplasia treated medically?
Medical management of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis has greatly improved thanks to the introduction and approval of several new drugs, as hip dysplasia is primarily an inherited condition, there are no products on the market that prevent its development. The best way to prevent this would be through diet and exercise.
Weight Management: Helping a dog maintain his recommended weight may be the single most important thing a owner can do for their pets. Surgical procedures and medical therapies will be far more successful if the animal is not overweight. If your dog is overweight, seek the advice of your vet for your dog to be placed on a diet.
Exercise: Exercise is equally important in losing and/or maintaining the appropriate weight. Leash walks, swimming, walking on treadmills, and slow jogging are excellent low-impact exercises. In general, too little exercise can be more detrimental than too much, however the wrong type of exercise can actually cause harm.
Warmth and good sleeping areas: Most people with arthritis find that the symptoms tend to worsen in cold, damp weather. Keeping your pet warm, may help him be more comfortable. A pet sweater will help keep joints warmer. In addition, you may want to consider keeping the temperature in your home a little warmer.
Massage and physical therapy: Your vet can show you how to perform physical therapy and massage on your dog to help relax and promote a good range of motion in the joints.
Making daily activities less painful: Going up and down stairs is often difficult for arthritic dogs; it can make going outside to the toilet very difficult. Many people build or buy ramps, especially on stairs leading to their yard, to make it easier for their dogs to go outside. Ramps also make car travel easier for arthritic dogs.
- Many dogs may be able to have surgery – a new hip replacement, please speak to your vet to see if this could be an option.
- Remember to always ask the breeder to view certificates of your puppy’s parents on their hip scores prior to purchase.