What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is an inherited disorder in which the hip joint becomes unstable. Usually the hip joint fits exactly into the femoral head in the acetabulum in the pelvis, that ensures a great sealed connection.
The development of hip dysplasia is caused by an interplay of various factors:
- The dog’s size and breed.
- The growth rate
- The feed composition
- Training intensity and duration
So there are both genetic and environmental factors in the development of hip dysplasia.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hip Dysplasia?
- In young dogs:
- The dog may be reluctant to jump or climb stairs.
- Decreased endurance when running.
- Sudden limping in one or both hind legs.
In older dogs:
- Limping in one or both hind legs, which occurs gradually
- Difficulty getting up, especially in the morning
- Unwilling to climb stairs.
- Muscular atrophy of thigh muscles.
- Front legs musculature become stronger and more developed, since the dog moves the weight more and more to the front.
How Does Your Veterinarian Diagnose Hip Dysplasia?
The veterinarian will examine how your dog moves. Afterwards he will investigate whether it causes the dog pain when the hip joints are bent or stretched, and when there is normal movement of the hip joints.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to take x-rays of the hips. If the dog is very calm, you can take the x-rays without any anesthesia. However, anesthesia is often required to take a x-ray – and it is also less stressful for the dog when calmed with anesthesia. X-ray recordings is done while the dog lies on its back and its hind legs are fully engaged while they are simultaneously held parallel. The images will show whether or not the femoral fit with the acetabulum, and will also show the shape of the femoral head and glenoid.
A new X-ray method called Penn-Hip was introduced in the US, where it is examined how much the femoral heads can be moved in out of the buttocks. During this study, the dog is always under anesthesia. The first X-ray picture is taken, while the dog’s femoral heads is kept from each other with a special tool, while the knees are pressed against each other. Then, a picture is taken in which the femoral heads are pressed into the buttocks. In the pictures you can measure the instability in the joints. Both the old and the new method are used around the world. The new method are better at determining how “relaxed” the hip joints are.
How Is Hip Dysplasia Treated?
At a young non-mature dog with hip dysplasia, the hip joints can very well stabilize so much during the growth phase, that the symptoms disappear. This is the reason that you first asses hip dysplasia in adult dogs.
If you dog are in the acute phase of pain, your veterinarian will treat the dog with pain medication and ask you to keep your dog calm. If necessary, the dog’s diet and exercise is changed.
An adult dog with hip dysplasia are usually handled with painkillers. Another medical treatment is the vet giving the dog cartilage-enhancing drugs as 4 injections, one week apart. This is supplemented by supplements. If that does not help enough, or if you believe that a surgery is necessary, there are several options.
- One can remove a muscle, located on the inside of the thigh and the fastening on the edge of the acetabulum. It gives the joint head a slightly different position in the hip socket, so the pain disappears. Occasionally there will be pain again at a later date after this surgery.
- It may be necessary to remove the femoral head if there has come difficult changes in the hip joint. Then the dog will receive a “hang hip”. After the operation, the muscles around the hip joint are responsible for carrying the weight. The surgery causes the leg movement to be reduced a little bit, but most dogs are doing fine after this.
- There is also the option of replacing the hip socket and joint head with an artificial joint as in humans. The method is good, but pricey.
- In recent years it has become increasingly popular to embed gold in acupuncture points around the hip joint. The advantage is that one does not need to cut into the dog. Gold pieces are put in through a needle inserted into the acupuncture points. The efficiency is still not clear, but is still being examined.
What Is The Future For Your Dog When Diagnosed With Hip Dysplasia?
For the young dog (younger than 12 months) who are diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you see sometimes that the hip joint stabilizes during further upbringing, so the dog becomes asymptomatic. But the dog can be in a few years have symptoms again, and then you have to consider treatment options again.
Many older dogs with hip dysplasia can be helped with painkillers. As mentioned in the section on treating of hip dysplasia above, there are many treatment options, so the chances of giving your dog a normal life is good. However, there are some hopeless cases that can not be helped.
It should be emphasized that dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia should not be used for breeding. There is worldwide launched programs to uncover dogs that have hip dysplasia and ensuring that they are not used for breeding.
Why Do Dogs Get Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is what is called a multi-factorial disorder. This means that there is both genetic and environmental factors which play to part. There are many different genes that are important for the disorder, so breeding programs to eliminate hip dysplasia, are important.
In adolescence, the feed composition are also of great importance to the development of hip dysplasia. Excessive growth rate and imbalance in minerals and proteins are predisposing to the disorder. It is especially too much calcium and incorrect calcium-phosphorus ratio in the feed, which is important.
Excessive exercise and training of young dogs increases the risk of hip dysplasia, and all dogs are overweight greatly exacerbates the condition.
Which Breeds Are Particularly Prone To Hip Dysplasia
It is especially large dogs who have problems with hip dysplasia. This may include include the German Shepherd, golden retriever and the rottweiler.
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