Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of one or both the dog's hips which can occur in any breed, and causes pain or discomfort when exercising or simply changing position. In today's blog our Cordova vets explain more about hip dysplasia, its symptoms and surgeries used to treat this condition.
What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
Your dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of one or both of your dog's hips. When a dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up the hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they should. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to breakdown over time and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip joint.
While hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, smaller breeds can also suffer from this painful condition. If left untreated hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally. Hip dysplasia is also very difficult for pet parents to deal with since it can be very upsetting to watch an otherwise healthy dog deal with the symptoms of this condition
What causes canine hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition, with genetics being the leading contributor to the development of the condition in dogs. Hip dysplasia is commonly seen in large and giant breed dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers and bulldogs, but a number of smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be susceptible.
If left untreated in the early stages, this condition will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia may be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
Although hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, some other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of the condition. Obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog’s joint, and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.
Regardless of which breed of dog you own, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their age, size and breed.
What are symptoms of hip dysplasia?
As with many other conditions, every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. Although the condition typically starts to develop when the puppy is as young as five months old, it may not become apparent until the dog reaches their middle or senior years. Pet parents should watch for these symptoms as their puppy grows into adulthood:
- Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
- Back legs are stiff when he walks
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
- Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
- Lameness in hind end
- Decreased range of motion
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?
Hip dysplasia is just one of the common conditions that vets watch for whenever a dog comes in for an examination. During your dog’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check on their physical health and the condition of all your dog's joints. Your vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your vet suspects that your dog may have hip dysplasia, they may recommend blood tests that can indicate inflammation as a result of joint disease.
Your vet will also request your dog’s complete health and medical history including a rundown of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard x-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to chart a course of action for treatment.
What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?
Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia range based on the severity of the condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, to pain meds and surgery.
What are options are available for dog hip dysplasia surgery?
When it comes to treating hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO can benefit both young and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO will not see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
Following surgery, your dog could be required to remain in hospital for anywhere between several hours and several days, depending on their health, and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you will need to prevent your dog from doing any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, you can expect your pup to completely recover about six weeks following the operation. Once fully recovered they can resume regular physical activity.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
These hip surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint.
Following these surgeries, your pooch will require several weeks before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
Total hip replacement is typically the first choice for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.
Total hip replacement surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. To ensure proper healing, expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog's hip dysplasia appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.
Our vets understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. This diagnosis can also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. That said, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.