Hip dysplasia in dogs is a painful and debilitating condition that can affect any size or breed of dog, although larger breeds are predisposed. However, try not to worry –if you’re reading this blog that means you’re already several steps closer to helping your pup and proving that your pooch has a responsible, loving pet parent!!
Knowledge is power when it comes to conditions like hip dysplasia, so making sure you're clued up on knowing the signs of hip dysplasia, how to treat it, and most importantly how to prevent it, is the most reliable and sure-fire way of making sure your furry friend has a happy, healthy, active and long life.
The hip joint operates as a ball and socket – the socket being the pelvis, the ball being the top of the thigh bone (femur). Hip dysplasia is when this doesn’t function correctly due to the joint not developing properly or simply not fitting as it should. This causes the pelvis and femur to grind together when the top of the thigh bone should smoothly slide around. Over time this causes the bones in this area to wear down, leading to severe pain and restricted range of joint movement.
Hip dysplasia is more common in bigger breeds like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountains, and German Shepherds, but can affect all sizes and types of dogs.
Our beloved pooches can start displaying signs of hip dysplasia as early as 4 months old! However, others can start showing signs much later and usually in conjunction with developing osteoarthritis.
The signs of hip dysplasia to look out for include:
If you notice any of these symptoms, however severe, your first port of call should always be your vet to obtain a diagnosis.
Factors that can cause canine hip dysplasia in dogs are:
Canine hip dysplasia requires life long treatment if your dog develops it. To make matters more tricky, most dogs with the condition typically develop arthritis as well later on in their life.
Although the condition can be debilitating, painful, and distressing for both you and your dog, there are many ways you can prevent and help treat canine hip dysplasia.
“If a dog is born with abnormal hips, they will unfortunately not improve on their own. This is why it’s so important to recognise hip dysplasia when your dog is young, as management earlier on will lead to less suffering later in life. Since dogs with hip dysplasia will go on to develop arthritis later in life, owners must pay attention to weight control, restricted exercise programmes, pain relief and reduction of inflammation with correct nutrition and supplementation. Since this is also an inherited disease, please make sure you are checking the hip scores of both parents if you are buying a puppy of a predisposed breed. Hip scoring schemes have been developed for this purpose and should be implemented by all responsible breeders”
Overweight or obese dogs are predisposed to having serious medical implications as well as causing and exasperating hip dysplasia. Did you know that 56% of dogs in the USA are classed as overweight or obese… That’s around 50 million dogs!
This extra weight causes unnecessary strain on dog’s joints, including their hips, whilst also increasing their risk of developing heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and ultimately shortening their life span.
Assess whether your dog is overweight by simply placing your palms on either side of your pup’s chest and lightly press down to check if you can feel their ribs. This area is where they accumulate fat. You should be able to feel their ribs upon light palpitation using your hands.
If they’re overweight or obese, start by reducing their food bowl amount by 10% which they’ll barely notice, and ask your vet for further advice regarding their weight management.
Any vet who sees a dog with joint issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis will recommend that you boost the Glucosamine in their diet. Glucosamine helps maintain synovial fluid that lubricates joints, helping to lessen friction during movement, whether sudden or sustained and fighting soreness and discomfort in both the short and long term. Therefore, any good joint supplement should contain Glucosamine.
Unless your vet recommends otherwise, regular, short walks on the leash are best suited to dogs displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. If they are obviously in pain, rest should take precedent as well as medical management to relieve their discomfort.
Exercise is essential to maintain your four-legged friend’s weight, but it’s important to ensure their exercise is controlled and limited so their joints are preserved and kept safe. Avoid jumping, skidding, chasing, racing around, and try not to exercise your dog for overly long periods of time.
If your dog’s symptoms are really severe, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication isn’t working, your vet might suggest intervention via surgery. This is usually advised in dogs with severely dysplastic hips and worsening arthritis because it truly might be the best course of action for your pet. This might involve a full hip joint replacement or a resurfacing/reshaping of the top of the thigh bone, depending on the severity of their hip dysplasia and knock on effects.
Surgery bills can be incredibly expensive, so consider insuring your dog as soon as you get them before any symptoms start.
As canine hip dysplasia is so often inherited, the best way to reduce the chances of it happening is screening before breeding. If you’re considering breeding your dog, screening programs are available to ensure the hip joints are healthy before you start down that road. Always consult with your vet before breeding too.
If you’re buying a breed that’s known to be prone to hip dysplasia, remember to ask the breeder about hip scores of the parents and always consult with your vet.