Hip dysplasia is a progressive, degenerative disease that begins when your dog is just a puppy, but generally isn't diagnosed until noticeable symptoms appear in adulthood. Today our Rock Springs vets discuss treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs and ways to help reduce the impact of this painful condition on your dog's mobility.
The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia
Your dog's hip joints work similarly to a ball and socket. If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip haven't developed properly and aren't functioning the way they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, causing continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip.
Hip dysplasia is a condition most commonly seen in giant or large-breed dogs, however smaller breeds can also suffer from this painful joint condition. Even though dogs are usually diagnosed with this issue when they are adults if the hip dysplasia is severe, it can be seen in puppies as young as four months old.
If hip dysplasia is left untreated it can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes significant pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally.
The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
In dogs, hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition, with genetics being the leading contributor to the development of the condition. Breeds that commonly suffer from hip dysplasia include large and giant dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, but several smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be susceptible.
If hip dysplasia is left untreated in the early stages, it will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips. Hip dysplasia may also be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
While hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Poor weight management and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of the condition. Obesity puts an abnormal amount of stress on your dog’s joints and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.
To help prevent your dog from developing hip dysplasia, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the amount of daily exercise your dog requires, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For
Each dog is different when it comes to the hip dysplasia symptoms they exhibit. The condition generally starts to develop when the puppy is about five months old, but it may not become apparent until your dog reaches their middle or senior years. The severity and the extent of the symptoms also depend on how serious the condition is and where it is in its progression. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their dog grows into adulthood:
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Decreased range of motion
- Grating or grinding of the joint when they move
- Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump, or climb stairs)
- Their back legs are stiff when they walk
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
- Lameness in the hind end
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs
Treatment options for hip dysplasia range based on the severity of your dog's condition. Your vet may recommend simple changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, or more intensive treatments such as pain meds or orthopedic surgery for your dog.
The Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery
When it comes to the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO can often benefit both puppies/young dogs 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 are unlikely to see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
After the surgery, your dog could be required to remain in the 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 dog to recover completely after about six weeks. Once fully recovered, they can continue their usual physical activity.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in puppies and young dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint.
Following these surgeries, your dog will require several weeks of reduced activity before they'll be able to enjoy properly leashed walks again and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return (although you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
In many cases, total hip replacement is the best surgical treatment option for hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is typically 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.
However, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. Most vets recommend this surgery for dogs that are experiencing considerable pain or for those that have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by a certified veterinary surgeon.
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 the surgery. 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 between 3 - 6 months of recovery time between surgeries.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Although hip dysplasia is largely a genetic condition inherited from previous generations, there are a few things that pet parents can do to help reduce the risk of their dog suffering from the debilitating effects of this condition.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
Because hip dysplasia is predominately a hereditary condition, the best way to avoid having to care for a dog with hip dysplasia is to select a puppy from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know the medical history of the parents and grandparents and be aware of any family history of hip dysplasia. Spending time researching your breeder could save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run.
Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you're already a pet parent, the best way to help prevent hip dysplasia in dogs is to help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on your dog's joints and can lead to unnecessary discomfort and joint pain.
Slow The Growth of Giant Breed Puppies
If you have a large or giant breed puppy, it is essential to slow the growth of these breeds to allow their joints to develop properly without putting too much strain on them. Accelerated growth and weight gain before your dog's joints can handle it can lead to hip dysplasia as well as elbow dysplasia and other painful joint conditions.
Supplements & Diet
If your dog is experiencing joint pain or faces a high risk of developing hip dysplasia speak to your vet about supplements such as glucosamine and fish oils that could help your dog's joints to stay healthy. There are several readily available, high-quality dog foods on the market that contain ingredients to help your dog retain comfortable mobility. Speak to your vet to find out if this is an appropriate option for your dog.
Appropriate Exercise & Play
Different breeds and sizes of dogs require different levels of activity to occupy their minds and keep their bodies healthy. The exercise needs of an Irish Wolfhound compared to those of a Border Collie will be vastly different. Excessive exercise or inappropriate exercise could magnify your dog's genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. Do your research, speak to your breeder, and consult your veterinarian to get a thorough understanding of the right exercise for your dog. Do not encourage your dog to do exercise that is not appropriate for their body type.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.