canine hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common condition in dogs that affects the hip joint, causing pain and discomfort, and ultimately leading to arthritis.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Difficulty or reluctance to stand up, jump, or climb stairs
  • Limping or a change in gait
  • Stiffness and soreness after exercise or prolonged periods of rest
  • Decreased activity level or reluctance to play
  • Loss of muscle mass in the hind legs
  • Pain or discomfort when touched around the hip area
  • Clicking or popping sound in the hip joint
  • In severe cases, lameness or inability to use the affected leg.

Not all dogs with hip dysplasia will show all these symptoms, and some dogs may show only mild signs. Some of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so it’s essential to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian if you think they may have hip dysplasia.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Causes

A combination of genetic and environmental factors causes dog hip dysplasia. The condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to instability and wear and tear of the joint. Specifically, hip dysplasia is characterized by an abnormal hip joint formation in which the ball and socket don’t fit together correctly.

Genetics is a significant risk factor for hip dysplasia. Certain breeds, such as German shepherds, labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and rottweilers, are more prone to developing hip dysplasia. This is because the genes that control hip development can be passed down from generation to generation.

Along with genetics, environmental factors can contribute to hip dysplasia. Puppies who are overfed or overweight or engage in excessive high-impact exercise or play may be more likely to develop hip dysplasia. Other factors contributing to hip dysplasia include hormonal imbalances, growth rate, and general health and nutrition.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Diagnosis

Diagnosing canine hip dysplasia typically involves a combination of physical examination and imaging tests. Hip dysplasia can be challenging to diagnose in its early stages, and some dogs may not show obvious symptoms until the condition has progressed. 

The physical examination may include observing the dog’s gait, looking for signs of pain or discomfort when manipulating the hips and legs, and evaluating muscle tone and range of motion.

Imaging tests such as X-rays or radiographs are usually used to confirm the diagnosis of hip dysplasia. These imaging tests can show changes in the shape and structure of the hip joint, such as subluxation (partial dislocation) or complete dislocation of the joint, as well as changes in the surrounding bones and tissues.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Treatments

The treatment of canine hip dysplasia will depend on the severity of the condition and the age and overall health of the dog. Here are some standard treatment options:

Weight management. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is essential in managing hip dysplasia. Extra weight can put additional stress on the joints and worsen the condition.

Exercise management. Limiting high-impact activities, such as jumping or running, can help reduce the stress on the hip joint. Low-impact exercises may be recommended, such as swimming or controlled leash walks.

Medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with hip dysplasia. Other medications, such as joint supplements or injectable medications, may also be recommended.

Physical therapy. Exercise, massage, and other physical therapy techniques can help strengthen the muscles around the hip joint and improve mobility.

Surgery. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. There are several surgical options that a veterinarian or veterinary surgeon may recommend.

Treatment is typically focused on managing the symptoms and slowing the progression of the condition since hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that can’t be cured.  A veterinarian can help develop a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s needs.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Surgery

Surgery is a treatment option for canine hip dysplasia and may be necessary in more severe cases where non-surgical options are ineffective. The type of surgery recommended will depend on your dog’s age, size, overall health, and severity of the condition.

A veterinarian can help determine if surgery is necessary and which procedure is best for your dog. After surgery, rehabilitation is usually needed for a successful outcome.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Prevention

While canine hip dysplasia has a genetic component and can’t always be prevented, you can take steps to help reduce the risk of developing the condition or minimize its severity. Here are some preventive measures:

  • Look for breeders that use genetic testing to screen for the condition in their breeding dogs.
  • Early screening can help identify dogs at risk for developing hip dysplasia and allow for earlier interventions. Puppies can be screened for hip dysplasia as early as four months old. 
  • High-impact exercise can put stress on the hip joint and exacerbate hip dysplasia. Low-impact activities, such as swimming or controlled leash walks, may be recommended.
  • Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin may help support joint health and reduce the risk of developing hip dysplasia.
  • Providing a comfortable bed or crate with supportive padding and ramps or stairs for easy access to higher surfaces can help reduce the stress on the hip joint.

Even with preventive measures, some dogs may still develop hip dysplasia. Regular veterinary checkups and monitoring your dog’s behavior and mobility can help catch it early when treatment is most effective. The team at Arlington Animal Hospital is here to help you keep your dog healthy, happy, and active. If you have any questions, please call us at (703) 920-5300.