HIP DYSPLASIA IN DOGS
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a deformity of the hip joint (coxofemoral joint) occurring during an animal’s growth period. Many large breed dog owners have heard of it. Anyone owning a dog should become familiar with this condition.
The ball of the femur can not fit properly into the hip socket. Affected dogs may show absolutely no signs of this condition. Others may show severe signs.
What causes hip dysplasia?
Several factors contribute to the development of this problem. Some breeds are more likely to genetically inherit hip dysplasia. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, St Bernards and Old English Sheepdogs are just a few.
Environmental factors also play a role in the development of dysplasia including diet, weight gain and exercise.
What to look out for
Hip dysplasia develops in young growing dogs. Signs maybe noticed as early as four to six weeks of age. There is no link between age and severity of this condition. Avery young puppy can be debilitated very early. In other cases dogs may not show any abnormalities until one or two years of age. In some cases may not become painful and lame until they are geriatric (6-10 years of age depending on breed). Here are some signs you should look out for:-
Hind leg lameness
Lack of coordination in the hind quarters (swaying and staggering)
Reluctance to run and jump
Difficulty when attempting to lie down or stand up
Diagnosing hip dysplasia
Your veterinarian will undertake a physical examination checking the motion of your dog’s hip joint. X-rays maybe taken to confirm the condition, and highlight the amount of associated arthritis.
Various medical and surgical options are available today to help restore your pet’s mobility and ease discomfort. The method of treatment depends on a number of factors including age and severity of the problem. Surgery is generally a last option and is usually recommended when other forms of treatment are not effective, when athletic performance is desired in young patients or to slow the progression of degenerative joint disease to enhance the probability of good long term limb function.
Non surgical options
Non surgical treatment is essentially the same as treatment for arthritis including a weight management program (including nutritional supplements), medications to help support and repair cartilage and medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. FHO is the removal of the ball part of the joint. This gives excellent results in small dogs because a functional “false joint” forms. Some large dogs may not form this “false joint” as well however this is recommended for patients with severe arthritis, if the hip dislocates, or if the expense of the other procedures is prohibitive.
Triple osteotomy is a procedure in which the pelvis is cut in three places around the hip joint. The bone is rotated to create better alignment with the femoral head (the ball). It is reattached so that the joint functions in a more normal fashion without looseness and pain. This should only be performed in a dog with no arthritic changes in the joint and is only an option for younger patients.
Total Hip Replacement (THR) is possible, as is done in humans. The hip joint is replaced with an artificial ball and socket. Often made of plastic and stainless steel attached to the pelvis and femur in place of the abnormal joint. This procedure can give many years of pain free use of the hips. However, is generally only an option for patients who have not responded to other forms of treatment, and is a very specialised procedure.
Diet and exercise in growing dogs
There is a growing body of evidence indicating that dogs that grow very rapidly are more likely to have hip dysplasia. Authorities recommend feeding a specifically formulated puppy food to puppies of high risk breeds so their growth is slower. Puppies will still reach their full genetic body size. Just not as rapidly.
Avoid excessive exercise in a growing puppy. Any abnormality in the structure of the hip joint is magnified if excessive running and jumping occur. It is not necessary to treat your puppy as if it were disabled. Long sessions of running or repetitively chasing thrown objects, running on the beach or alongside a bike can be detrimental to joints.
Caring for a dog with hip dysplasia
There are a few things you can do to assist your pet:-
If you suspect your pet has hip dysplasia, seek advise immediately to minimise the arthritic changes that will develop as the problem worsens.
Monitor your dog’s body weight and avoid obesity, ask your vet or healthcare team for a nutritional plan
Avoid strenuous exercise but provide moderate exercise as indicated by your veterinarian.