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Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can significantly reduce a dog's quality of life. It's hard to watch a dog suffer from joint pain, but there's a lot that can be done to help keep them active.
Pet parents who know the warning signs of hip dysplasia in dogs can take steps to slow the rate at which the condition worsens, preventing their dogs from experiencing avoidable stiffness and discomfort.
Hip dysplasia is a hip deformity that giant dog breeds tend to develop as they grow. With hip dysplasia, the ball of the femur and the socket of the pelvis don't grow at the same rate. This causes these bones to rub and grind against each other — often painfully — instead of rotating smoothly in the joint.
Dog breeds that are typically affected include:
Large breed dogs with a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia are more likely to develop severe hip dysplasia if they also experience:
Excessive weight gain
Pet parents are often interested in learning how to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs. Dogs are less likely to develop hip dysplasia if they maintain a healthy weight and stick to a diet that's rich in nutrients like iron that are important for joint health. Nutrition is an important part of preventative health care for pets. Dogs need adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and water to keep their joints lubricated.
Pet parents who have a big dog can choose dog food specially developed for large-breed dogs. They should also talk to their veterinarian about using supplements like glucosamine to support healthy hips.
Clinical signs of hip dysplasia can be detected when a dog is four months of age. However, some dogs don't show signs until they start developing osteoarthritis when they're around a year old. The intensity of the signs will depend on factors such as the level of inflammation in the joint and how long a dog has had hip dysplasia.
If pet parents notice any signs of hip dysplasia in their dog, they should take the dog to the vet to be examined. The veterinarian will do a physical examination and an X-ray to check how the dog's femur fits into their pelvic socket for a definitive diagnosis. It's important to get started on the best treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs quickly to reduce joint damage wherever possible.
When a dog experiences pain every time they try to move their hip, they'll use the joint less in order to avoid that pain. And because they're not using the muscles in the hip as much as they should, those muscles start to waste away. Over time, a dog may look slimmer around their hips than in other parts of their body. Loss of muscle strength will also make it hard for the dog to rise from a resting position.
Dogs with joint disease gradually experience increasing stiffness in the hip joint and a decline in their range of motion. The veterinarian will check the dog's hind legs to determine whether their range of motion is limited. As the dog's hip dysplasia worsens, they'll find it harder to move their leg away from their body or from a bent to a straight position.
When a dog's hip joint is damaged, they'll tend to limp after exercise. When they run, they'll use a bunny-hopping gait, moving in the same way that a rabbit would when walking. If pet parents notice their dog limping, telehealth is a good way to find out if they should be concerned.
Many dogs with severe hip dysplasia avoid jumping. Puppies with hip dysplasia are less active than other dogs their age and may show signs of pain and struggling while climbing stairs. But, like older dogs, they'll need to be examined by a veterinarian to confirm that their inactivity is caused by hip dysplasia.
Veterinarians treat mild hip dysplasia in dogs with physical therapy and pain relievers. Overweight dogs may be prescribed calorie restriction and moderate exercise. These cause weight loss, which reduces the pressure on their joints. Dogs with severe hip dysplasia may benefit from surgical treatment.
Total hip replacement surgery is usually the preferred surgical treatment method for severe hip dysplasia in dogs because it's very effective. Veterinarians use plastic and metal implants to replace the damaged hip, restoring most of the dog's normal range of motion. This surgery also alleviates the pain that the dog would have previously experienced whenever they put pressure on the damaged joint.
If a dog is almost completely immobile, this surgery can help them. However, the replacement components must be custom-made for them. Dogs usually need at least 12 weeks to heal after this procedure. If they need surgery on both hips, only one will be done at a time with up to a six-month gap between them.
A femoral head ostectomy involves removing the head of the hip joint so the body can make a replacement. It helps with managing pain, but the dog won't recover their full range of motion. Dogs need less time to heal from this type of surgery than a total hip replacement — they usually recover after just six weeks. Although conservative treatment methods like exercise and physical therapy help with pain from hip dysplasia for a while, a dog may eventually need surgery as their discomfort and disability worsen.
Any surgery comes with risks, but if a dog has hip dysplasia, surgery can significantly improve their quality of life. Supplements can also help to restore flexibility and reduce pain.
Fuzzy veterinarians are on call 24/7 to help with questions about canine hip dysplasia and suggest treatments that pet parents can start using immediately to help their dog with pain. Sign up for a free trial today and start talking to a veterinarian in less than a minute about hip dysplasia in dogs.