Hip dysplasia in dogs causes crippling pain and lameness in their hip area. Most affected dogs experience this debilitating disorder due to genetic and environmental factors.
What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
Hip dysplasia in dogs refers to the abnormal development of the hip joint, which is the meeting point of the femoral head (ball) and the acetabulum (socket). It is a structural problem within the hip joints and hinders the ball from smoothly moving in the socket in a stable manner.
An x-ray of young dog (8 months old puppy) with hip dysplasia showing subluxation on both hips.
Hip dysplasia causes any of the following hip conditions.
- The dog’s sockets may be out of shape.
- The ball may be partially or fully out of the sockets (dislocation).
- The ligaments of the hip joints may also become loose – making them unstable.
Which dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia can develop in any dog. But this health issue is more often found in the following dog breeds.
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- Great Danes
- German Shepherds
- Saint Bernards
According to statistics released by the Orthopedic Foundation of America in December 2016, Pugs, Fila Brasileiros, Bulldogs, Saint Bernards, and French Mastiffs have the highest percentage of dysplastic hips among dogs born between 2011 and 2015. Lhasa Apsos and Italian Greyhounds were found to have the lowest incidence of this disorder.
Different breeding practices have led to the development of each breed’s hip issues. For this reason, many breed clubs and responsible dog breeders promote only dogs screened for genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia before including them in breeding programs.
What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?
There are different factors that contribute to the development of hip dysplasia in dogs and these include:
The deformed structure of hip joints is inherited from the parents or ancestors. To be clear, dogs are not born with hip dysplasia. But some dog breeds are predisposed to develop this bone problem as they grow older and bigger. Generally, dog breeds that grow at a faster rate are more likely to develop hip dysplasia.
The environment where a puppy grows up affects his likeliness to develop hip dysplasia. For this reason, taking preventative measures is highly recommended when taking care of dogs, who are prone to hip dysplasia, or have parents with the disorder.
According to the findings of Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, the living conditions of puppies during the first months of their lives have an influence in the development of hip dysplasia. The veterinarians found that the following dogs have a lower risk of developing hip dysplasia.
- Puppies born in farms during the spring or summer
- Dogs who grew up playing in parks until 3 months of age
The veterinarians found that there is a connection between exercising out in undulating terrain and lesser risk of developing hip dysplasia in dogs.
On a different note, the veterinarians also found that dogs, who use steps or stairs daily have increased the risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Other possible causes of hip dysplasia in dogs include accidents, hip injuries, nutrition, obesity, and more.
What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs?
Here are some symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs:
- Difficulty getting up
- Unsteady gait
- Sitting like a frog
- Short strides
- Difficulty squatting especially when peeing or pooping
- Muscle loss in the hip and thigh area
- Aggression or whining when hip area is touched
- Falling over
- Reluctance to play
The development of hip dysplasia varies from dog to dog depending on the breed, risk factors, and the environment. Hip dysplasia in dogs can develop as early as they turn 4-5 months old. It worsens with age and may show up when the dog is in his middle or later years. However, signs of hip dysplasia in dogs often appear by the time the dog is 18 months old.
How can you have your dog’s hips scored?
Your veterinarian will take x-rays of your dog’s hips. Those x-rays will be then sent to any of the following organizations, depending on your location:
- United States – Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
- Europe – Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
- United Kingdom – British Veterinary Association (BVA)
- Germany (for German Shepherds) – Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV)
The respective organization will then assess the x-rays. After the assessment, the scores and certifications are sent back to the veterinarian. Different organizations have different sets of rules and guidelines on how the x-rays are taken and how they are submitted.
How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?
Veterinarians diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs using radiographs or x-rays. They check the hip joints for incongruence, shallow or narrow spaces between the ball and socket, deformation, injuries, calcium deposits and more.
What are the treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?
The treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs varies depending on the condition. In some cases, bed rest, medicines, and joint supplements are enough.
In advanced cases, surgeries, including femoral head ostectomy (FHO) and hip replacement surgery, are needed. Some veterinarians and owners also opt to use stem cell treatment to treat hip dysplasia in dogs.
How to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs?
Here are a few tips to prevent the development of hip dysplasia in dogs.
- Have your dog’s hips scored especially if his breed is predisposed to hip dysplasia. This is usually done when the dog is around 1 year old.
- Do not let your puppy climb up and down the stairs, bed, or couch – especially at a young age.
- Starting at a young age, exercise your dog in areas with undulating terrain. Make sure your dog has received at least one shot of his vaccinations before taking him to dog parks. Do not let him play with unvaccinated dogs.
- Feed your dog high-quality foods to ensure the proper development of his bones and body.
- Keep your dog fit to prevent the extra weight from straining his hips.
- Do not let your dog overexert during his playtime and exercise to prevent damage to the ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and tissues surrounding the hip joints.
- Consider giving your dog supplements for his joints.
How to help dogs with hip dysplasia?
Here are some tips on taking care of dogs with hip dysplasia.
- Control your dog’s weight and diet.
- Give your dog joint and bone supplements.
- Consider low-impact exercises like swimming and underwater treadmill when exercising your dog.
- Get your dog an orthopedic bed to let him rest in comfort.
- Install ramps in your home to prevent your dog from straining his hips when jumping or climbing on the furniture or stairs.
- Consider getting your dog “hipsters” or supportive harnesses.