Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
When the joints within the hips begin to deteriorate, there is an overall loss of function. This is known as hip dysplasia. The ball and socket joint are malformed and do not fit together properly. This causes rubbing against the joint, rather than smooth gliding.
What Symptoms Are Common?
One of the most common signs of a dog having hip dysplasia is his difficulty to get up. Whether the dog is sitting or lying, he will struggle to stand up on his own and move around. Many dogs are also reluctant to jump or take the stairs because they know their hips cannot handle the movement.
Due to the lack of movement, a dog’s back legs often become smaller. Muscle mass in this area is lost. A dog’s stance may appear narrower, with the back legs close together.
Are There Uncommon Symptoms?
Overtime, a dog’s hips may become so damaged that a grinding sound can be heard when he moves. The shoulders may also appear larger, as more weight is put on the front legs. This leads to an increased muscle mass in the front, making the dog disproportionate.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip dysplasia develops when the ball and socket joint do not fit together properly. Rather than operating smoothly, the two push together and rub against one another. This grinding causes severe damage to the joint, leading to other issues.
Larger dog breeds are more likely to develop hip dysplasia. This includes the great dane, the saint bernard, the german shepard, and even a lab. Small dogs are rarely plagued with this degenerative disease, although they can be.
Hip dysplasia is thought to be a disease that plagues older dogs. While this can be true, especially with the onset of arthritis, it is actually not the most commonly seen. Dogs can develop hip dysplasia when they are only puppies. At around four months of age, early onset hip dysplasia can develop.
Increased weight gain and obesity is another factor that can cause the disease. This is often when small dogs are troubled by it.
Is Hip Dysplasia Contagious?
Hip dysplasia is not something that can be passed from one dog to another. It only harms dogs that have weak hip joints. It is a hereditary disease though that may be seen by multiple members of a dog’s family.
What is the Diagnosis?
Diagnosing hip dysplasia often requires a physical examination. The veterinarian may attempt to make the dog jump, or simply walk, to see how their hips handle the pressure. Those that cannot perform will need to be examined carefully.
A blood count can be taken to determine if inflammation is present at the joint site. Fluids may also be taken to determine an electrolyte panel, as well as a urinalysis.
X-rays are also ideal for diagnosing hip dysplasia. They allow veterinarians to determine how badly damaged the joint actually is, and help narrow down the treatment method. This also helps veterinarians see if any underlying issues are available, such as a bone disease or disease of the spinal cord.
What is the Prognosis?
Dogs with hip dysplasia can be treated, but many may never fully recover. The treatment typically works to lessen symptoms and reduce pain. It does not actually eliminate the hip dysplasia or repair the damage done. The only way to do so is with surgery.
How is Hip Dysplasia Treated?
Hip dysplasia is mainly treated with through weight management and control. A special diet is needed in order for dogs to return to a normal weight, and have less pressure placed on their hips. A natural, healthy dog food is the best option.
Controlled exercise is also required. This will help to keep the back legs moving, and prevent a disproportionate amount of muscle mass between the front and back legs.
Many dogs with hip dysplasia are only able to handle short walks. Dogs should never be pushed past their maximum level, as it can cause a setback, along with incredible pain and discomfort. Walking and swimming are two valid exercise options for dogs with this disease.
Heating pads are also available for a dog’s use. These will help to relieve discomfort. Cold weather seems to worsen symptoms. Warmth will alleviate them.
Anti-inflammatory medications are typically needed. These work to reduce inflammation, and therefore pain. It may be wise to offer this medication before controlled exercise, to help the walk last longer.
Young dogs who are already experiencing hip dysplasia may require surgery. This can help to correct the joints so they are fit together smoothly and stop rubbing. Normal joint development can be achieved with this method, but it does take several weeks of recovery time.
Older dogs may receive a total hip replacement. This will replace the degenerative hip with a substitute that works correctly. Significant benefits can be seen with this type of surgery.
Living with Hip Dysplasia
Dogs with hip dysplasia will live with the disease for the rest of their lives. It is best to keep dogs as comfortable as possible so they do not have to experience as much pain.
Anti-inflammatory medications may be needed on a regular basis, as well as heating pads. Dogs will also need help with both weight management and management of exercise. It will be a daily struggle for dogs with this disease, but proper management and medication can help to ease their discomfort and prolong their life.
Dogs that undergo surgery will need to be allowed recovery time. During this time, exercise will be limited, and careful management is required.
In order to prevent hip dysplasia, dogs should not be allowed to become overweight. This means feeding pets a proper diet, and never allowing them to consume human food. Only a natural dog food should be offered.
Proper exercise also works to prevent the disease from occurring. Dogs should be walked regularly and allowed to play outdoors when possible. No dog should be kept up inside, especially within a crate, with no chance to perform any physical activity.