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What You Need to Know About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Canine hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can be heartbreaking to watch, and for pets, it can drastically reduce their quality of life. But, while dealing with a sick pet can leave owners feeling helpless, there are specific steps pet parents can take to help their pet. 

With this in mind, owners must be well-versed in conditions such as hip dysplasia. A general understanding means that preventative measures can be put in place, allowing the signs of hip dysplasia to be recognized quicker to aid early intervention.

With this knowledge, owners can ensure that every life stage, from puppyhood to adulthood, can be enjoyed and savored. 

Understanding hip dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition that affects the hip joints in dogs. 

A dog’s hip joint is a ball and socket. The ball will move smoothly inside the socket in a healthy canine hip. However, hip dysplasia disrupts this function in one of two ways. The first way is characterized by the ball and socket not fitting together. The second way is improper development of the joint.  

Both problems result in, rather than a constant smooth slide, the joint rubs, and grinds. In time, the hip joint deteriorates to the point where the dog loses joint function. The deterioration may present as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis before progressing into hip dysplasia. 

Injured Australian Shepherd uses medium dog wheelchair
Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair
BuddyUp Harness provides lifting support for dog
BuddyUp Harness

Common causes of hip dysplasia

Schauzer weares Hip-EEZ dog hip brace to beach

A common cause of this condition is genetics. Although hip dysplasia can impact any dog, large pure and mixed breeds risk developing hip dysplasia because of their rapid growth. This is because rapid growth does not allow for joints to develop correctly.  

With this in mind, breeds that are more likely to suffer from this condition are: 

  • Great Danes
  • Saint Bernards
  • Labradors
  • Retrievers
  • German Shepherds 

Your dog’s heritage will also play a role in developing hip dysplasia. Primarily a hereditary condition, the chances of a puppy developing hip dysplasia if their parent or parents have it are more than double. 

It’s also worth noting that nutrition and exercise play a role in developing or avoiding hip dysplasia. Take overfeeding as an example. This can often lead to obesity. As such, the extra stress on the joints may cause hip dysplasia or exacerbate it if the condition is underlying. 

Preventative techniques

Both reading about and witnessing hip dysplasia firsthand can be distressing. Luckily, there are some steps owners can take to help prevent a beloved pooch from this fate. First, however, it is worth noting that for most owners, their pets become like family. This means you share in the good and bad times, just like with your relatives. One such tough time is watching your dog deal with hip dysplasia. 

This painful condition can be heartbreaking to watch, and for pets, it can drastically reduce their quality of life. But, while dealing with a sick pet can leave owners feeling helpless, there are specific steps humans can take to help their pet. A general understanding of the condition and its signs means that preventative measures can be established early in the dog’s development. It also means that symptoms can be recognized quickly to aid early intervention.

With this knowledge, owners can determine the right level of care for their beloved pets. Ensuring the pet’s joint health is front and center at every life stage from puppyhood to adulthood. 

There are special nutritional requirements for large-breed puppies. Feeding your puppy food that helps prevent excessive growth gives joints and muscles time to develop properly. 

Exercise is also crucial. Keeping the pet at a healthy weight allows the dog to develop and function without adding stress and strain on the joints. However, not all exercise is beneficial. As such, stick to low-impact activities that don’t hinder the body. Running and jumping will place too much strain on the dog’s hips. 

Symptoms to look out for 

Canine Mobility Loss Sign: Struggling to Stand

As many cases of hip dysplasia are not preventable, it’s essential to know the symptoms to be aware of. Early intervention has many benefits. Firstly, you can reduce the amount of time your dog spends in pain and promote good joint health from a young age. Secondly, you can place them on the road to treatment faster, rather than leaving them to exacerbate the problem. 

It is common for symptoms of hip dysplasia to be evident around the 4-month-old mark. In other cases, older dogs may develop hip dysplasia along with arthritis in certain joints as they continue to age. 

It’s also important to note that symptoms might be mild or prolific depending on the severity of the condition. The associated inflammation or joint looseness and the duration of the illness will also impact symptom severity.  

Symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

Canine Mobility Loss Sign: Reluctance to Use Stairs
  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Wobbly gait 
  • Inability to climb stairs
  • Limited range of motion
  • Dwindling activity levels
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass 
  • Excessive panting (indicates pain) 
  • Weakness and pain in the hind legs
  • Reluctance to get up from a sitting position
  • Cracking and popping sounds coming from the joints

Achieving a diagnosis

If your dog is showing signs of hip dysplasia, it’s important to have them assessed by a vet. With the average cost of treating a dog around $499, this visit might be expensive. However, it’s the only way to set your dog on the path to recovery and keep them active.  

The first step will revolve around the vet performing a physical exam. Manipulation of the back legs will be able to assess how loose the joints are, the level of grinding, and the range of motion. 

From there, the vet may order blood work. Through this process, the vet will determine if there is inflammation around the joint which will be apparent in the complete blood count. However, the vet will need to perform a radiograph or x-ray for a definitive diagnosis. 

The road to treatment 

walkin' wheels dog wheelchair

When it comes to dealing with hip dysplasia, there are many different treatment options to consider. However, the available treatment options will differ depending on the severity of the condition in your dog. 

For those on the less severe end of the scale, hip dysplasia can be treated with weight loss, exercise restriction, physical therapy coupled with joint supplements, anti-inflammatory medication, and joint fluid modifiers.

Surgery may need to be considered for dogs with more severe cases of hip dysplasia. There are three surgical options used to treat this condition. Number one is a double or triple pelvic ostectomy. This is normally a surgery for dogs less than ten months old.

Number two is a femoral head ostectomy which is used on both young and mature dogs. Number three is the more severe option- a total hip replacement. After surgery, it’s advised that dogs wear orthopedic braces or utilize a dog wheelchair to help provide extra support and stability during exercise.

In Conclusion

There is nothing worse for an owner than seeing their dog in pain. As dogs are known for their stoic nature, the sight of limping or excessive panting due to pain can be quite confronting to witness. 

In order to provide the best care for your dog, it’s important to be informed. A reasoned approach to preventing and dealing with hip dysplasia can help ensure that your dog has all the tools needed to live comfortably and happily.

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