Getting a diagnosis from your vet that your dog suffers from hip dysplasia can be very worrying for the dog owner, and it is one of the most common genetically inherited canine conditions over all. While it would be wrong to understate the seriousness of hip dysplasia and the effect that it can have on affected dogs, getting a diagnosis of hip dysplasia doesn’t have to be the end of the world. There are a variety of different ways of treating and managing the condition to improve your dog’s quality of life, and in some cases, correct the condition for the long term.
Hip dysplasia is the name given to an abnormal development of the joints of the hips, which leads to slackness of the muscle, connective tissue and ligaments that holds the ball and socket of the hips in place as well. As the condition progresses, the abnormally formed ball and socket joints will begin to separate and lose the snug fit that allows normal movement. The term used to describe this is “subluxation,” and this occurs when the head of the femur and the socket on the pelvis are not a perfect fit and are unable to rotate freely without coming loose.
In time, this combination of factors leads to malformation of the hip joints, pain, and an unusual walking and running gait. Hip dysplasia can occur on one side of the hips only, or on both; even when only one hip is affected initially, it is not uncommon for the other hip to go on to show the same symptoms in time.
Hip dysplasia does not usually begin to show symptoms in dogs until they are around 18 months old, so the main way to establish if your dog is likely to develop hip dysplasia is to find out if either of the parent dogs are affected by it. Even if the parent dogs are apparently fine, further testing known as “hip scoring” can be undertaken to get a truer picture of the condition of the hips, and help to establish if the condition is likely to develop in subsequent puppies. Dogs that do not do well in hip scoring or that already suffer from hip dysplasia should not be used for breeding, although not every breeder will perform these tests to make sure.
Some breeds are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, including:
Dogue de Bordeaux
All of which, among others, show between 10% and 60% propensity to hip dysplasia across tested animals of the breed as a whole.
The treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs are intended to either correct the issue surgically, or slow the progression of the condition and reduce any associated pain via non-surgical treatment options.
The condition of the dog, its age, and the ability to fund treatment will all be taken into account when deciding upon the most appropriate course of treatment or management for affected dogs. The main options for treatment of hip dysplasia are as follows.
This involves the removal of the malformed ball joint, and the remaining end of the femur being used to form a new false joint in its place. This treatment method generally leads to a greater freedom of movement and reduction of pain, but will not return the dog to a completely perfect hip alignment.
Total hip replacement surgery means that the affected hip or hips are removed and replaced with an artificial socket and ball joint, which leads to a full recovery (if everything goes to plan). This surgery can be considered as probably the most ideal treatment option in dogs for which it is viable, but it is a complex and specialised surgery that will require a referral to a specialist veterinarian who has the skills and equipment to perform the operation.
This surgery involves the placement of metal screws and plates within the hips, and the cutting of the hip bones in three locations to allow for adjustment and a better fit within the joint. Generally dogs that have had a successful triple pelvic osteotomy performed will have normal or almost normal movement after recovery.
Darthroplasty is a relatively new addition to the surgical treatment option range for hip dysplasia, and so far, has been demonstrated to be most successful on younger dogs whose bones are still young and developing. A notch or shelf is cut into the bone of the joint socket, which then fuses to hold the ball of the femur more securely and prevent it from slipping or “floating.” Like the total hip replacement surgery, most general veterinary practices are not equipped to perform the surgery, and dogs will need to be referred to a specialist.
If surgery is not appropriate for the dog in question, dogs will usually have their condition managed by a combination of anti-inflammatory medications, pain medications, and diet and exercise. Weight plays a large part in how bad or pronounced hip dysplasia in the dog is, and it is important to keep affected dogs trim and within a healthy weight range to avoid placing additional stress on the joints.
Hip dysplasia cannot be cured or fully treated without surgical intervention, but surgery is not always the right choice for every dog, and so sometimes simple management of the day to day effects of the condition is more appropriate.
If you have any concerns about the condition of your dog’s hips or their movement, it is important to speak to your vet sooner rather than later. Hip dysplasia is progressive, and treatment is more likely to be successful and offers a wider range of options if undertaken while the dog is still young.