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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

If your dog is exhibiting signs of hip dysplasia such as pain or discomfort when exercising, it’s important to get checked right away. In this post, our Ypsilanti vets describe symptoms and causes of the condition in dogs, plus surgical options.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Veterinarians see this common skeletal condition more frequently in large or giant breed dogs, although smaller breeds can also experience this issue.

As in humans, a dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket; however, in dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia, this ball and socket do not develop or function properly. Instead they grind and rub, which can lead to deterioration over time and eventual loss in the function of this important joint.

What causes canine hip dysplasia?

As you might imagine, this condition is painful for your dog, and if left untreated can dramatically reduce the quality of life for your dog. It’s also distressing to witness physical symptoms appear in once-healthy dogs.

Hip dysplasia is hereditary, and genetics is a leading contributor to the development of the condition in dogs. This is especially true in larger breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, although even smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs can be susceptible.

This condition can worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral), in addition to potentially being exacerbated by osteoarthritis and associated pain in senior dogs.

Which breeds are prone to canine hip dysplasia?

Although the condition is inherited, some factors can enhance the genetic predisposition towards developing the condition and increase the risk that it will develop. Factors such as improper weight and nutrition, excessive growth rate, and certain types of exercise can have adverse effects on your dog's joint health. Because obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog’s joint, this can aggravate a pre-existing condition or even cause hip dysplasia.

The condition most commonly affects giant and large breed dogs, but hip dysplasia can occur in any breed or size of dog. This is partly why it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of exercise your dog requires each day and what their ideal diet should contain.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

While puppies as young as five months old can start to develop hip dysplasia, it may not be apparent until they reach their senior years. As with many other conditions, every dog is different but in many cases, owners notice it in pets that are middle-aged or older.

Some common symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
  • Back legs are stiff when walking
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when they move
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'

During your dog’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check on their physical health and condition. The vet may move your dog’s hind legs to assess whether any grinding, painful sensations, or reduced range of motion is present in the joint. There may be a blood test since a complete blood count can identify inflammation potentially resulting from joint disease.

You should be prepared to provide your vet with your dog’s health history, a list of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. It’s also helpful to know your dog’s lineage. Along with all of these, your veterinarian will also usually take an X-Ray or radiograph to pinpoint the severity of hip dysplasia in your dog and chart a course of action for treatment.

What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia can range from changes in lifestyle or diet to surgical procedures. There are three commonly used procedures to address this condition:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

Both young and senior dogs can benefit from this type of surgery, which consists of removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint. The body then creates a “false” joint, which can decrease the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia. While your dog won’t see the return of their normal hip function, it can be an effective method of managing pain.

Following surgery, your dog could need to stay in hospital for anywhere between several hours to several days, depending on their health, the duration and complexity of the surgery, and other factors. Avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery. Most dogs will completely recover about six weeks following the operation, when they can resume physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

This procedure is most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, which involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and rotating its segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint.

Your dog will require several weeks before they’ll be able to stroll comfortably again and will need regular physiotherapy for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within 4 weeks). Most dogs will recover within 4-6x weeks.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

This treatment option is often the preferred choice, as it is the most effective surgical procedure for hip dysplasia in dogs. It involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the whole joint, which brings hip function more closely to previous levels in addition to eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

A THR surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive, typically taken when the dog in question is in considerable pain and nearly completely immobile. Artificial components must be custom-made for your pooch and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons.

The surgery usually takes about 2-3 hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for a few days following surgery. To ensure that your dog heals properly and completely, expect about a 12-week recovery period. Though hip dysplasia usually appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three- to six-month gap between procedures.

Having your dog diagnosed with hip dysplasia can be disheartening news, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. It may also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. However, your vet will discuss best options for you and your dog and may be able to recommend options that can help your dog recover and regain their hip function.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Concerned that your dog might be suffering from hip dysplasia? Our veterinarians at Michigan Avenue Animal Hospitall in Ypsilanti have experience in identifying many conditions and illnesses in dogs. Book an appointment today.

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