Hip dysplasia is the most common cause of lameness in the hind legs of dogs . Like other bone and joint diseases, it has a genetic basis . Although not all descendants of an affected line suffer from it, genetic inheritance is the greatest risk factor.
Canine hip dysplasia occurs in the dog’s growth stage and is due to a loose and unstable fit of the hip joint , causing pain and dysfunction in the extremities.
Over time, there is progressive loss of cartilage , development of scar tissue around the joint, and formation of bone spurs around the femoral head and pelvic cavity.
Dogs with hip dysplasia can lead long and healthy lives , especially with treatment and some change in their lifestyle . Although hip dysplasia pain can reduce a dog’s quality of life, taking a few simple preventive measures can go a long way for your dog.
Table of Contents
- What is hip dysplasia?
- What physical therapies can I use if my dog has hip dysplasia?
- Exercise routine adapted to hip dysplasia.
- Hydrotherapy is a good option for dogs with hip dysplasia
- A lifting harness can help a dog with walking difficulties
- PetSafe Dog Support Harness
- Thalas Dog lifting harness
- Tineer Harness for rear legs
- What can cause hip dysplasia in a dog?
- What symptoms does a dog with hip dysplasia have?
- How is canine hip dysplasia diagnosed?
- Are dog breeds more likely than others to suffer from hip dysplasia?
- Does hip dysplasia have treatment?
- Medical treatment.
- Surgical treatment.
- Can hip dysplasia in dogs be prevented?
What is hip dysplasia?
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. In a healthy dog , the socket of the pelvis, called the acetabulum , is rounded and deep enough for the head of the femur to fit in and pivot in it. A strong ligament joins the femoral head to the acetabulum. Both bone surfaces are smooth and contain cartilage and lubricant that generate painless, fluid movement when the joint is used.
However, in a dysplastic hip, the head of the femur does not fit properly into the hip joint, because the acetabulum is poorly developed and excessively flat (shallow). Therefore, the head of the femur slides against the surface of the superficial cavity of the hip, causing joint instability as muscle development exceeds the rate of growth of the skeleton.
When the stress of weight bearing exceeds the strength limits of the connective tissue and muscle that support it, the joint becomes loose and destabilized . This allows free play of the head of the femur in the acetabulum, which enhances the abnormal wear of the joint .
Furthermore, the ligaments are not as strong , which causes the two bony surfaces to separate further, instead of keeping together. This implies the appearance of bone spurs that are very painful, since when the dog walks, they rub against each other.
Hip dysplasia also favors the appearance of arthritis in that area.
The specimens that suffer from hip dysplasia are born with hips that appear normal , but undergo progressive structural changes that cause the bone surfaces to separate. The age of onset is between 4 and 12 months .
What physical therapies can I use if my dog has hip dysplasia?
Depending on the dog and the severity of hip dysplasia, physical therapy may be combined with veterinary treatment. There are several therapies that can help your dog lead a happier and healthier life:
Exercise routine adapted to hip dysplasia.
It is very important that your dog’s muscles and rear end are gradually strengthened, so that the hips support the weight better. In many cases, the joints gain stability and surgery can be avoided.
It is recommended to take daily walks not very long. If your dog likes to jump, try to limit that behavior. You should also avoid climbing stairs. The key for your dog to improve is that the exercise is carried out gradually and adapted to its situation, so that the dog is comfortable and the dysplasia does not worsen. Consult your vet to establish a correct exercise routine.
Hydrotherapy is a good option for dogs with hip dysplasia
Hydrotherapy is a controlled water exercise that will help your dog develop hind leg muscles without injury. The dog must walk on a treadmill that is located inside a hot water tank. The heat of the water helps the muscles to relax.
If you cannot take your dog to hydrotherapy, remember that you can make him swim in a river or lake, where he will also exercise without damaging his hip.
A lifting harness can help a dog with walking difficulties
If your dog has hip dysplasia and trips when walking, going up and down stairs, or getting up off the ground, you can help him with a lifting harness. Here we show you some of the alternatives that exist in the market:
PetSafe Dog Support Harness
PetSafe CareLift Support Harness – Help for …
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This harness helps lift the dog’s body. It has a lift extender to reduce stress on your back. It is adjustable and breathable.
Thalas Dog lifting harness
Dog lifting harness, approved by …
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It is a harness designed for dogs that have difficulty walking, whether due to their advanced age , hip dysplasia or other conditions. It has a sheepskin lining that prevents friction and pain. It is adjustable in length, easy to use and wash.
Tineer Harness for rear legs
Tineer Dog Lift Harness for rear legs …
11,29 EUR10,29 EUR
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Back leg sling harness, suitable for dogs with weak paws, arthritis, orthopedic injury, hip dysplasia, old age or other conditions. It is made with breathable mesh fabric and has a strap that supports the weight of most dogs. The harness supports the dog’s hindquarters, helping him to walk and reducing stress on his hips.
What can cause hip dysplasia in a dog?
There are several main factors that lead to the development of canine hip dysplasia:
- Hip dysplasia has a genetic basis, although not all descendants of a line prone to it will suffer. It is a polygenic disease, that is, it is controlled by more than one gene. As it is an inherited disease that progressively worsens with age, it is recommended not to use dogs that suffer from it for breeding.
- A very high calorie diet during parenting can negatively affect hip dysplasia, because rapid weight gain increases stress on the hips . Excessively rapid growth rate, weight, and poor nutrition have been shown to exacerbate genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. There are special feeds for large breed puppies , which help prevent overgrowth, so that their joints develop without undue stress, helping to prevent hip dysplasia and other bone and joint problems. The obesity is also a risk factor as it undergoes the dog joints to a great effort.
- Inadequate exercise. Another aggravating potential of hip dysplasia is physical exercise, both by excess and by defect. During the period of bone growth, improper exercise can lead to hip dysplasia. If your dog is young or suffers from hip dysplasia, you should avoid jumping high or high and standing on its hind legs.
What symptoms does a dog with hip dysplasia have?
The symptoms of hip dysplasia vary depending on the dog and the severity of the disease, the degree of inflammation, and other factors.
Among the most frequent symptoms that can make you suspect that your dog has hip dysplasia are:
- Decreased physical activity
- Difficulty or reluctance to climb heights, jump, run, climb stairs …
- Lameness of hind legs
- Rocking and marching in small jumps (known as a “rabbit jump”)
- Loss of muscle mass in the hind legs
- Increased shoulder muscles as they compensate for the posterior end
- Pressure on the rump may cause the pelvis to sink.
How is canine hip dysplasia diagnosed?
A physical exam may be enough to make your vet suspect hip dysplasia. Your vet will manipulate the dog’s hind legs to test the joint’s looseness and check for any problems, pain, or reduced movement. The dog’s physical examination may include a blood test .
The definitive diagnosis involves an X – ray or X – ray , since it is the only reliable way to determine if a dog has hip dysplasia. For this, sedation of the dog or anesthesia is required . The x-ray will help determine the degree and severity of hip dysplasia and, therefore, the best treatment for your dog.
If the hip is normal , the head of the femur fits snugly into a well-formed pelvic cavity, with minimal space between the head of the femur and the acetabulum. The acetabulum completely covers the femoral head.
If the dog has hip dysplasia , the radiograph will show a mild subluxation (increased joint space), with the head of the femur partially out of the acetabulum. There are no changes associated with degenerative arthritis.
If the dysplasia is moderate , the head of the femur hardly sits on the acetabulum, which is very flat. Arthritic changes begin to appear, including wear and flattening of the head of the femur, rough appearance of the joint surfaces, and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes).
If the dysplasia is severe , the head of the femur is completely outside the joint and the arthritic changes are marked.
Once arthritis is seen, the condition is irreversible . But even with arthritis, some dogs don’t limp. In fact, while some dogs with hip dysplasia spend their lives without limping, others begin to do so since they are puppies.
Are dog breeds more likely than others to suffer from hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia occurs more frequently in large breed dogs because its weight places greater stress on the hip joint.
Among the dog breeds most affected by hip dysplasia are:
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- Neapolitan mastiff
- Great dane
- German shepherd
- Golden retriever
- Saint Bernard
Smaller breeds may also be affected , but symptoms are less likely to manifest.
Does hip dysplasia have treatment?
The treatment of hip dysplasia is both medical and surgical.
If your dog’s hip dysplasia is not severe or, for some reason, your dog is not a candidate for surgery, your vet may recommend that you follow several guidelines:
If your dog is overweight , it is important to follow a proper diet to reduce stress on his hips.
It is also recommended that you restrict physical exercise , especially on hard surfaces. You will have to avoid some inappropriate exercises, such as jumps and twists in the air.
The physiotherapy can help your dog to relieve pain.
Your vet may recommend some joint supplements , as well as anti-inflammatory medications and perhaps the administration of some pain reliever, such as carprofen.
A joint chondroprotector can be very effective in relieving pain and inflammation and repairing cartilage.
Dogs with hip dysplasia do very well with a teaspoon of good quality turmeric in their food. The ponytail is also very effective. You can give them both with their daily food ration.
Therefore, if your dog suffers from hip dysplasia, it is important to exercise, but you should avoid running, jumping and playing while feeling pain. If you like swimming , this is an excellent exercise to improve your muscle mass and joint flexibility without unduly straining your hips. You can make him swim by throwing a ball into the water, at a distance that your dog can easily cover.
After reviewing the x-rays, your vet may recommend hip surgery. There are several surgical options for a dog that suffers from hip dysplasia:
- Double or triple pelvic osteotomy and femoral osteotomy. Both interventions are performed in puppies of less than 10 months that do not present degenerative joint changes. The goal of both operations is to wedge the head of the femur deeper into the acetabulum. With both interventions, normal joint function is maintained and arthritis may not develop, although this is not definitive. In the case of double or triple pelvic osteotomy, the joint is improved by selectively cutting the pelvic bone and rotating the segments. In the case of the femoral one, it can be done in young and mature dogs and consists of cutting the femoral head, which causes the body to create a “false” joint that reduces discomfort and pain.
- Pectineal myctomy. This is a relatively simple procedure that involves removing all the pectineus muscle from the two affected sides. This operation does not slow the progression of joint disease, but does provide pain relief for a time.
- Excision arthroplasty of the hip and neck of the femur. It is performed on dogs weighing less than 16 kilos. This intervention is effective in relieving pain. It involves removing the head of the femur, allowing a fibrous junction to replace the joint between the head of the femur and the acetabulum.
- Total hip replacement. It is the most effective procedure for dogs older than 9 months with disabling degenerative joint disease in one or both hips. In this case, the old joint is removed and replaced with an artificial one. It requires special equipment and is usually performed by an orthopedic specialist.
Can hip dysplasia in dogs be prevented?
There are mainly three preventive measures for hip dysplasia:
- Avoid excessive weight gainduring the puppy’s growth stage.
- Prevent the dog from excessive force on the hips.
- Selective breeding. Hip dysplasia has a hereditary factor and is twice as common among siblings of the same litter when one parent suffers from it. Experience shows that the repeated selection of normal specimens for breeding considerably reduces the incidence of hip dysplasia in blood lines prone to it.
- Hip dysplasia is a frequent cause of lameness in the dog’s hind legs.
- Canine hip dysplasia has an important genetic basis.
- Overweight, rapid growth, and exercise that forces the hips influence the development of canine hip dysplasia.
- Hip dysplasia is due to the dog’s femur head not fitting well into the pelvic cavity.
- Adequate nutritionand physical exercise are important to avoid increasing stress on the dog’s hips.
- If hip dysplasia is not serious, you just need to take preventive measures to improve your dog’s quality of life.
- Administration of anti-inflammatories and chondroprotectors (containing chondroitin and glucosamine) will help your dog fight hip dysplasia.
- Turmeric and horsetail are effective in relieving hip dysplasia.
- The most reliable diagnosis is an x-ray.
- There are surgical treatments for canine hip dysplasia.
- The most effective is the total replacement of the hip with a prosthesis.
- To prevent canine hip dysplasia, avoid overly rapid growth of the puppy, try not to force your dog’s hips and resort to selective breeding.
- See your vet if you think your dog may have hip dysplasia.