What is it?
Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal diseases in dogs that affects the acetabulum (part of the hip joint where it articulates with the femur bone) and the femoral head (the highest part of the femur bone, where it articulates with the acetabulum).
The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the acetabulum acting as a socket and the femoral head acting as a ball. In a normal hip joint, the socket surrounds the ball and both bones are shaped to match each other so the ball can rotate freely in the socket.
In hip dysplasia, the acetabulum is usually shallow or the femoral head does not fit into the acetabulum. This condition is usually followed by poorly developed muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments. As hip dysplasia develops, the two bones lose contact with each other and eventually will separate.
What causes it?
There are several factors that could cause hip dysplasia. The most common ones are genetics, obesity, nutrition, and exercise.
German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards have a higher incidence. Hip dysplasia can happen in mixed breeds, particularly if it is a cross of two dogs that are prone to it. Medium-sized breeds can have this disease and it occurs rarely in small breeds, but these breeds are less likely to show clinical signs.
Obesity can increase the severity of the disease because carrying extra weight will worsen the degeneration of the hip joints, as well as other joints.
Feeding a diet that has too much or too little minerals can affect the development of the hip joint. If you feed your dog home-made dog food, please monitor the nutrients and minerals content closely.
Hip joints that are supported with prominent muscles are less likely to develop hip dysplasia. Moderate exercise with minimum impact that strengthens the gluteal muscles (e.g running, swimming) are excellent to decrease the risk of hip dysplasia. However, please avoid excessive exercise especially at a young age, and exercise that requires a lot of jumping.
Dogs of all ages are subject to hip dysplasia.
Early signs usually develop after four months of age, though in most cases, the symptoms do not begin to show until the middle or later years in the dog’s life.
Signs include stiffness or soreness especially after rising from rest, difficulty moving, lameness, pain, reluctance to stand on rear legs, jump, or climb stairs. Dogs often walk or run with a “bunny hopping” gait or altered gait. They may resist movements that require full extension or flexion of the rear legs. As the condition progresses, most dogs will lose muscle tone and may even need assistance in getting up.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Many affected dogs do not show clinical signs, but x-rays can confirm the case, though radiographic features may not be visible until the dog is two years old.
There are two ways to treat hip dysplasia, regarding the severity of the case:
- medically – weight management, exercise, supplements and drugs
- surgically – with various methods, from the easiest (FHNE) to total hip replacement.
Please discuss with your vet for the best solution for your dogs.