Canine hip dysplasia is a common skeletal condition, more common in large or giant breed dogs, although it can occur in smaller breeds, as well.The hip joint functions as a ball and socket. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket do not fit or develop properly, rubbing and grinding instead of sliding smoothly. This results in deterioration over time and an eventual loss of function of the joint itself.
Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs:
Several factors lead to the development of hip dysplasia in dogs, beginning with genetics. Hip dysplasia is hereditary and is especially common in large and giant breed dogs, like the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd Dog. Factors such as excessive growth rate, types of exercise, and improper weight and nutrition can magnify this genetic predisposition.
Improper nutrition can also influence a dog’s likelihood of developing hip dysplasia, as can too much exercise – or too little. Obesity puts a lot of stress on your dog’s joints, which can exacerbate a pre-existing condition such as hip dysplasia or even cause hip dysplasia.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs:
Some dogs begin to show signs of hip dysplasia when they are as young as four months of age, while other dogs develop it in conjunction with osteoarthritis as they age. In both cases, there are quite a few symptoms associated with hip dysplasia that larger breed dog owners should be familiar with. These symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the disease, the level of inflammation, the degree of looseness in the joint, and how long the dog has suffered from hip dysplasia.
- Decreased activity
- Decreased range of motion
- Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
- Lameness in the hind end
- Looseness in the joint
- Narrow stance
- Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
- Grating in the joint during movement
- Loss of thigh muscle mass
- Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs:
At your dog’s regular checkup, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam. Sometimes this exam is enough for your veterinarian to suspect hip dysplasia.
If you or your veterinarian suspect hip dysplasia, one of the first things that your veterinarian will do is manipulate your dog’s hind legs to test the looseness of the joint and to check for any grinding, pain, or reduced range of motion. Your dog’s physical exam may include blood work because inflammation due to joint disease can be indicated in the complete blood count. Your veterinarian will also need a history of your dog’s health and symptoms, any possible incidents or injuries that may have contributed to these symptoms, and any information you have about your dog’s parentage.
The definitive diagnosis usually comes with a radiograph (x-ray). Your veterinarian will take radiographs of your dog’s hips to determine the degree and severity of the hip dysplasia, which will help determine the best course of treatment for your dog.
Treating Hip Dysplasia in Dogs:
There are quite a few treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs, ranging from lifestyle modifications to surgery. Depending on your dog’s case, the vet may suggest the following:
- Weight reduction to take stress off of the hips
- Exercise restriction, especially on hard surfaces
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, corticosteroids)