Seeking Answers to Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Today’s article is bird’s eye view into a problem common in many breeds of dog known as hip dysplasia.

With some information gleaned from an article written by Marcia King in the December issue of Dog Fancy, words of advice from Dr. Darryl Mills, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Tennessee, taken from the same article in Dog Fancy and some research by me, we will give you a quick rundown on this common and dreaded problem.

There are many breeds that seem to have a genetic tendency toward hip dysplasia among them, you will find Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, Daschunds, Spaniels, Dobermans, Rotweilers, Mastiffs and many more.

If you are in the market for a dog it is wise to research the breed you are looking for, to see what the genetic tendencies are toward certain ailments.

What is hip dysplasia?

It is a loose abnormal hip joint caused by a hip socket that is too shallow to hold the ball or head of the thigh bone (femur.) This causes a rubbing together of the joints and that in turn causes inflammation, pain, cartilage damage, muscle loss and arthritis. It is more common in males than in females.

What causes it?

In many cases it is a genetic predisposition, however it can also be caused by too rapid a growth in large dogs, while in the puppy growing stage and high impact exercise while a puppy, such as excessive jumping, running and training.

What are the signs?

Lameness or stiffness in the hind legs, difficulty in walking or standing, problems getting up after lying down, a type of “bunny hop gait” and pain. The dog may show pain by crying out or by nipping at its hind legs as if he/she were trying to get a flea or some other bite.

It is a condition that develops in puppy-hood, but may not be noticed until a few years later. Puppies can show signs as early as 5 months (20 weeks.)

How can you tell if your puppy has hip dysplasia?

Your vet can tell by moving the hip joints and by taking x-rays. If found early enough (before 20 weeks) there is a simple surgical procedure that can be done to repair the problem and it is the least expensive of the surgeries that can be done later on.

Many veterinarians suggest the surgery be done at the same time you spay or neuter your pet, providing you know you have a dog that is a high risk for the problem, especially if one of the parents has a known case.

What can be done to prevent it?

Preventing rapid growth is one way. Slowing down the weight gain gives the bones a chance to grow and get stronger without the extra body weight. Some vets advise mixing the puppy food formula with adult food to help slow down the growth, while others suggest just feeding less more often. Talk to your vet before implementing any changes in your puppy’s diet.

Avoid high impact exercise, keep the jumping and other strenuous exercise at a minimum. Any type of play that puts stress on the hind quarters on a continual basis is not recommended.

If your puppy is from high-risk parents or if the breed has a tendency to have problems, have your puppy checked early by your vet. Just knowing what to expect can allow you to plan for early surgery if necessary or it will give you something to base the early training of your dog on.

What types of surgery are available?

There are currently 4 types of surgery available:

  • Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis is the surgery that is done before 20 weeks. It is the quickest and the least expensive. It cauterizes the growing cartilage cells in the hip, altering the growing hip angle which provides a tighter hip.
  • Triple pelvic osteotomy is a surgery where the pelvic bone is cut in 3 places and repositioned to better secure the thigh bone. It is best done before any signs of arthritis appear.
  • Total hip replacement is the most expensive and of course the best alternative. The dog gets an artificial hip and most dogs have amazing results.
  • Femoral head and neck incision surgery removes and replaces the head of the thigh bone with muscle or joint tissues that form a false joint. This is best done on dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds with generally good results.

    Besides surgery there are also other ways to help reduce the pain dogs suffer. Some more advanced veterinary clinics have available transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which uses an electrical impulse to help reduce pain.

    Then there is extracorporeal shockwave therapy that utilizes sound waves to induce pain relief. This treatment has helped some dogs go for months without pain and others for a year or two.

    Knowing many of us have budgets that do not allow (as much as we would like to) for giving our pets the most expensive treatments and we have to rely on medication and supplements to supply pain relief.

    The market place abounds with many good products that can help you and your pet dull the pain of arthritis type symptoms. One of which I will just briefly mention here as I use a product called OptiMSM for relief of arthritis type pain in my knees and shoulder, it truly has helped me and my husband.

    Kala Health Products has many products for cats and dogs that suffer from arthritic type pain as well as pain relief for humans.

    If you are looking for someone you can trust and something to give you or your pet pain relief, give them a try. You just might write me and say thank you.

    If your dog showing any of these symtoms, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian, an ounce of prevention or early treatment is worth its weight in caring for your pet and your checkbook.